Uncle Dan sent me off to LAX for my flight to Alaska. The traffic jam that he mentioned before flashed to my face. I felt embarassed for putting him into this situation.
Anyway, my flights (to Anchorage then Fairbanks) were uneventful. I slept smoothly during the trip. I arrived In Fairbanks at 7am. I quickly checked out the view outside. It was all white. I’ve seen snow before and came close to it up the mountains of Switzerland, Austria and just recently, Yosemite. But I’ve never experienced snow in the flatness of town or city areas. That was my first. I heard so much about the extreme temperature of inland Alaska. Honestly, I was intimidated.
I waited a while for an hour but sunrise still didn’t show up. So I decided just to brave my way out of the warm airport. I took cab ($20) to my accommodation, 9th Ave Hostel. Arrived there 15mins later, I pressed the doorbell and Cho, opened the door for me, welcomed and walked me around the homey hostel.
I didn’t really have a plan for the day. So, the whole morning, while waiting for sunrise, I just planned my day. I decided to have a walk in the morning and join a Ben Boyd Northern Light viewing tour at night (US$75).
Sun finally rose at about 10am something. The temperature torture began as I started to walk to and around the downtown. I stepped out and it felt like I stepped into a freezer. Only, this freezer is as huge as one state. First time, I was experiencing real snow and ice in a non-mountainous area. It felt dry, no wind and it was painful. There was a point when I couldn’t anymore feel my ears and I panicked and ran to the nearest warm place.
I walked to a coffee shop, park, church, souvenir shop, visitor center where I watched a documentary about dog-mushing and then to a grocery store. Then decided to walk my way back home. I then, waited for 10pm for Mr. Ben to pick me up fo the Northern light viewing tour.
10pm came and he was on time. I excitedly jumped on his van. As usual, there were 2 couples in the tour and I was the only one by myself. We drove for about 45mins to the Chandalar Ranch. Huge place with open and clear sky view. The moon and the starts were out. What about the Aurora?
Yes. It came out after 12midnight. The temperature outside was unbeareable. I could only stay out to take pictures for maximum of 5 minutes. 5Minutes out, 10 miunutes into the wooden and warm lodging place and this cycle continued on for more than one hour as the elusive Aurora continued on showing up and hiding again. Everytime, I’d successfully view her amidst the bone-breaking temperature ouside, I would get in to reward myself with a free warm cup of coffee and a cookie. Satisfied, we all decided to head back home. I wished I could stay longer. Day’s cutain’s off – sweet dreams while light of Aurora was still on – in my head.
Second day. No plans still. I woke up at 8am, while most people were still sleeping. 8am is like their midnight. I searched for things to do. I thought, why not go to Chena hot spring. I searched online and came across a tour that included the famous hotspring and another NL viewing and so, I booked. This time, my cash was limited and I could only use credit card. Despite getting invited and having an option of just hitching with people from the hostel who rented out a car to go there, I couldn’t anymore because I didn’t have enough USD anymore. Didn’t set up my CC for me to withdraw money too. Apparently, there was no Currency exchange in Fairbanks too.
Anyway, I just walked around to find lunch. Restaurants were closed, I only managed to see one Thai resto and this Crepery. I chose the crepe shop, a little bit pricey but the food was good enough and surprisingly filling. I walked back home to wait for the tour that night again. I was starting to get accustomed to the temperature. Haha yey!
I paid, $190 for the tour. A lot more pricey than the first night. The tour van arrived. As usual, I was the only one, by myself. We drove to Chena hot spring. First on the list was the Ice museum, there were impressive ice sculptures and I kind of enjoyed it while I was more excited for the warmth the hot spring would provide my body.
We got changed into our swimming attire and headed off to the spring. It was in open air. While my body was comfortably warm inside the spring, my head and hair were literally icy and frosting. It was amazing! Haha
After the relaxing dip into the spring, I was so hungry, I decided to get myself a cup noodle and an ice cream. I wasn’t sure if it was a scientifically proven effect of that experience but I also saw my tour mates doing the same thing. Haha
After eating, just outside the eatery, there was an Aurora Borealis viewing area. After just a few minutes of waiting, it came out, much stronger than the night before but a lot shorter too. It only showed itself for about 10minutes and never came out again until 2am. We all decided just to give up and go home. The short time period of night’s meeting was good enough. I got what I came there for. I was already content.
Sunday came. Buses weren’t running. So how the hell would I visit Fairbanks attractions? I just decided use cab. I told myself, never mind, it’ll take a long while before I could go back to that place again. I decided to go for 11:30am mass first at Fairbanks Cathedral. I called a cab, it arrived. Apparently, cabs there needed to be called for. I didn’t have a working phone, and so I thought, I wouldn’t know how to get to my next destination but I told myself, I’d think about that later. After the mass, I waited outside the church, and asked a kind-looking woman if it’s possible for her to help me call a cab and she agreed. I used that method the whole day, asked for stranger’s help to help me call a cab. Surprisingly, everyone was willing to help.
From the cathedral, I went to Northpole ($50), I met this driver who talked a lot more about Alaska and Fairbanks more than the tour guide last night. I enjoyed the ride (his name is Charlie : HP #: 907-347-4284) . He introduced himself as an Eskimo. The first time I’ve ever met a real Eskimo…haha Of course, he cleared that their heritage may have lived in igloos but now, he and his family have a proper house.
I took a lot of photos in the North Pole, saw a caged group of reindeer and shopped inside the Santa house, which was actually a souvenir shop. I also had coffee and cake in there. I again, asked a stranger to call Charlie back after I was done. I asked him to bring me Trans-Alaskan pipeline.There were no other tourist the pipeline viewing was all for myself. As extra, he brought me to a view point, where I could see the town and with the backdrop of the blinding sunset. I then asked him to drive me to Walmart.
Beside Walmart were other shops. I went into the sport shops and in the Old Navy store which was having 75% off. Yey I shopped a little, with my mini backpack in mind. Good thing, I was only carrying a backpack flying in. If I had something bigger, I might have shopped more.
Stranger helped me call a cab again and I was home. I just stayed up in he kitchen and enjoyed the night talking to people. Tomorrow, I would be checking out. Sad. Cho, the hostel owner somehow became a constant conversation-mate.
Anyway, at 11am, I was ready to check out. I again, walked to the downtown. I had proper lunch at Lunch..a very straight forward name and could be easily remembered. Then walked back to the church again and around the downtown. I went to a Dog-mushing museum and headed back home as I waited for my cab (Charlie) to the airport…..at 4:45, I bid Cho and the my mates goodbye…sad! I love staying in hostels!
My flight was at night, so I could save up for the accommodation. I’d arrive LA in the morning.