Norway: Langedrag Nature Park

Langedrag Nature Park is a magical place where humans can get up close and personal with animals and nature in the middle of beautiful Norwegian scenery. The park is located in Nesbyen, Norway (1,000 meters above sea level) which is two hours by car, or three by train from Oslo. People from all over Norway and Europe come to the park all year. Every week they are home to a new group of visiting school kids. Here you can meet wild wolves and listen to their howls, pet an arctic fox, feed a moose and reindeer, and even more fun activities.

Mountain lake scenery at Langundrag Nature Park

The view from the park

When to go:

The park is open the entire year, with every season offering new and exciting. adventures. Summer is the high season. During these two months the park has over 1,000 visitors every day. It is very busy, but the most activities are available. After summer the rest of the year is quiet. There is also a special off-season discount on tickets. We went on a weekday in September and were 6 of 10 visitors that day. It was wonderful. The park was quiet, and the leaves were beginning to turn a brilliant shade of yellow. We were able to participate in farm life, horseback ride in the mountains, and meet all the animals, who were clearly enjoying the chill air and sunshine. In the winter the park becomes a winter wonderland. Cross country skiing,followed by warming up with a delicious bowl of homemade stew , is popular.

Langundrag Nature Park

The park entrance

It’s best to arrive early so you don’t miss any thing.

Hours:
Naturepark: 10am-6pm all year
Cafe: 11am-5pm all year

Worried about the commute from Oslo? Overnight stay in a their lodge or cabins is available.

Prices: Click here to view the costs for entrance, special activities, and overnight stay  at the park (in Norwegian Kroner)

Daily programs (these change occasionally depending on the day and season):

  • 12-2pm : pony riding
  • 11-12:30 : Horseback riding tour
  • 12:00 : Moose feeding
  • 1:00pm-2:00pm : Voltige. Learn to balance on horseback
  • 2:00pm : Wolves and lynx feeding. Interact with arctic fox and reindeer.
  • 3:00pm-5:00pm : Pony riding
  • 3:30pm : Foxcamp, a 30 minute up close meeting with the arctic foxes inside the enclosure.
  • 3:30pm: Tour inside the wolf enclosure
  • 4:30pm: Tour inside the lynx enclosure
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm : Horsebackriding tour
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm : Zipline through the forest
  • 5:00pm : Goat milking

The activities listed in italics where all available on the day we were there, during the off-season. Some of them, including horseback riding and tours inside the enclose, have an added cost. Click here to view more activities that may not be listed above.

 

The park was founded as a farm in 1978, with the intention of creating a place where people can have a unique closeness with animals. They have 300 animals from 20 different species.

Langedrag is not a zoo. Many of the animals like the goats, horses, and occasional reindeer roam free out of enclosures. The lynx and wolves have enclosures so massive, they are still considered wild.

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Our day at the park was wonderful. When you enter, the first thing you see are twenty  goats and fifty rabbits  wandering around.

Then, we met the horses we were going to ride. The horses at the farm are a small Norwegian breed. Our instructor gave a five-minute lesson which involved patting our horse on the rump to make it trust us… learning a few commands, and then hopping on. The actual riding was only for an hour. We started out on trails and then on the “off-road” path, which involved crossing streams and other small obstacles. The landscape surrounding us was unbelievably beautiful. The trees were beginning to turn yellow, and a golden morning light was cast though the open space.

feeding moss to a reindeer at Langedrag nature park in Norway

Feeding the reindeer

Later in the day we went on a few tours to visit the wolves and lynx, and feed the moose, arctic fox, and reindeer. The man guiding the tours talked to us in English the entire time about all the animals and the history of the park.

Finally, it was time for the goats to be milked. The park is also a sustainable dairy farm. In the cafe you can try their homemade goat cheese. My sister’s and I unsuccessfully tried to milk a goat (it’s much harder than it looks). So instead, a nice lady, who works a the park, offered to squeeze goat milk into my mouth 🙂

All in all I would definitely recommend this park to families or anyone really. It was a great experience that we will not forget for a long time.

Happy travels xx -Iz

 

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Leaving Bangkok

 And we are back in Norway. A few weeks ago we soared through the clouds above Thailand and said goodbye to food on a stick, inexpensive food, delicious Thai food, markets, oh and did I mention food?? While I do miss the food, culture, and people it is nice to be back in a country that really cares about their natural surroundings. Honestly, it has been quite a reverse culture shock to see the way people take care of the environment. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Thailand.

Open sewage canals, trash, smog, traffic and pollution where all things I knew where in existence going into Thailand, Bangkok especially. However, after really living in these conditions they lost their novelty and I realized the grand scope of the problem. We walked the streets of Bangkok a considerable distance, and by the end of our month there we had to seek refuge in malls with air quality filters. Both of my parents ended up with bad coughs from the pollution in the city.

We only lived in Bangkok for a month, others live there their whole lives. The pollution is a result of a growing urban industrial nation, car emission, and rural forest fires and burning. Recent studies have shown that elevated levels of pollutants in the air have directly caused an increase of respiratory disease and related hospital visits.

Causes of Bangkok pollution, heavy traffic

Traffic along a turnabout in Bangkok

 

One day, we were led by google maps to a “river ferry”.  In reality this was a sewage canal being used for transportation purposes. Honestly, I will never forget the sight of this canal. The water.. if that word can even be used in this situation, was completely black. Bubbling at the surface. The smell that came out of this canal was the most rancid sewage smell you can imagine. Even after that sensory experience were still determined to make it from point A to point B. Then, the “river ferry” pulls up. The thin boat is completely packed with Thai’s. The boat is covered in plastic to protect travelers from the splash of the sewage (how considerate). Keep in mind this is not the “river cruise” decorated boat you see in tourism brochures. No tourist were in sight, except us of course. The paint had peeled of the boat long ago, and hanging from the sides were a decent amount of used car tires to protect the boat from the impact against the cement loading platform. No life jackets were in sight. Within 25 seconds, a bare foot attended threw a rope over to the loading platform and ten or so people jumped a foot over the canal waters arriving at their destination, meanwhile another ten jumped in.

Homes along a polluted canal in Bangkok

Homes along a canal

Another boat passed by while we considered how to navigate this situation. After it rushed by, bouncing over waves of sewage, I was convinced we were going to die. Thankfully, I convinced my family of this and we left the area, seeking safer modes of transportation.

While I’m writing this in a light tone, it is a very serious problem. I’ve heard that Bangkok calls itself the “Venice of the East”,  but hearing this makes me cringe. 9.6 million people live in Bangkok, and only 40 percent of homes are connected to the city sewage system. 2.5 tons of liquid waste are produced every day, and out of that large number only 60 percent is able to be treated. Added on top of the liquid waste is the trash, vegetable waste, and other assorted substances thrown into the rivers.

For all of Thailand, the statistic is even scarier. 21 percent of 68 million people have access to the sewage system. 14 million cubic meters a day of waste is produced, and only 3 million are treated.

Children swim naked in these canals, people take baths in them, and they are even used for tourism as “river cruises” . Some how no one seems to realize that this is an actual and growing problem, it is often brushed aside as a unique trait of the third world.

Bangkok Pollution, A ferry crossing the Chaco-Phraya River

A ferry crossing the Chaco-Phraya River, the largest river in Thailand and a dumping ground for agricultural and industrial waste.

 

I don’t want to leave Bangkok on a bad note, however travel bloggers never seem to write about the reality because no one really wants to read that. Everyone wants to paint a pretty picture of a place, my self included (see my earlier article “Wandering Through Bangkok” ). Sometimes we also need to talk about what’s not so pleasant.

I love Thailand and living there immensely. We had a ton of wonderful experiences and adventures, and met a ton of amazing people. Thailand is a beautiful country, but the way the environment has been neglected to the point that very little can be done to solve this problem really made me think about what some countries are doing differently than others, and what needs to be done to solve this growing global issue. 

 

Sources:

Chaco Phraya River Basin, Thailand a case study by: The Working Group of the Office of Natural Water Resources Committee (ONWRC) of Thailand.(http://webworld.unesco.org/water/wwap/case_studies/chao_phraya/chao_phraya.pdf)

Vichit-Vadakan, Nuntavarn, and Nitaya Vajanapoom. “EHP – Health Impact from Air Pollution in Thailand: Current and Future Challenges.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

 

Updated Guide to Saving Money in Norway

How to Save Money in Norway

Norway and Scandinavia are some of the most expensive countries in the world to visit. The standard of living in Oslo is 120% higher than in Bangkok. This is evident in all aspects of life. The air is clean, the roads are driven primarily by electric cars, the food is healthy, and nature is everywhere, well-preserved and beautiful. Despite the costs, here we are (for the second time), a frugal family of six living in Norway. People must think we are crazy, but honestly this country is not as expensive as everyone thinks. Here’s what we do to live on a budget.

How to Save Money in Norway, Feeding a baby moose at a nature park in Norway

Feeding a baby moose in Nesbyen, Norway

Eat cheaply and shop smart

Eating out in Norway is beyond expensive. Trust me on this one. A pizza is $30, a beer $15, a normal meal is $25 dollars. Avoid that at all costs. Cooking at home is a must.

Grocery stores can also be expensive at first glance. If you look a little deeper you will find some very reasonably priced food. The brand First Price makes an inexpensive off brand version of almost everything, from toilet paper to roasted chickens. It’s usually 50-75% cheaper than the brand name. First price is also healthy and delicious. We matched up the ingredients on some of their products to the brand name equivalent, and they were near identical. The chain grocery store KIWI carries the most first price products, and has the lowest prices. Sometimes before the weekend, or at the end of the day grocery stores give out free bread that’s usually $4 a loaf.

Shopping smart in Norway, a cart full of first price brand food.

Look at all that first price!

Asian grocery stores or similar family run stores have the lowest prices for fruits, veggies, and bulk good such as flour, sugar, or rice.

We even foraged for food, which is obviously season dependant but can yield great results. Summer has blueberries, raspberries, and lingonberries. Apples are plentiful in the fall , and many people will let you pick some from their trees if you ask nicely . Different mushrooms can be foraged every season.

How to save money in Norway. Foraging in the green mossy forest

Foraging for Mushrooms

Norway is pretty dry in terms of alcohol. Many Norwegians actually go to Sweden to get alcohol. Most cities will have one store which sells alcohol stronger than 4%. These end sales after 3pm, and are pricy… Beer and drinks under 4% are for sale at most grocery stores.

Thrift shop

If you are in need of clothing definitely visit your local Fretex. Fretex is a chain of thrift stores that specialize in brand name (mostly H&M honestly) clothing at a VERY discounted price. It’s very similar to the Salvation Army or Goodwill in the States.

How to save money in Norway, Norwegian Fretex thrift store

Fretex second hand store

If you knows some locals, or are staying in a local area, ask about school sales. They are big sales at local schools of donated clothing, shoes, furniture, ect. These are even more inexpensive than thrift stores.

Live Smart

Do what you have to do, whether it be Couchserfing, Airbnb, Workaway, or WOOFing, to avoid staying at a hotel. You can even camp, this is free everywhere that isn’t private property. Libraries have free wifi, charging stations, and computers. Remember, the best thing about Norway is that all the best activities are completely, 100% free. Hint: Go for a hike 🙂

Foraging in Norway, girl stares at tall pine trees

 

To read my 1st article on Norway on a budget click here. Happy travels XX – Izzy