Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani is an active volcano on the island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia.  At 3,726 metres, it is the second highest mountain in Indonesia (excluding West Papua). On top of the volcano is a crater lake called Segara Anak (Child of the Sea). At the eastern edge of the lake is a smaller volcanic cone (post-caldera cone) called Gunung Barujari. The lake changes colour (steel grey, cobalt blue or green) with the direction of sun rays falling on it. At higher elevation, the mountain peaks, floating clouds, crater rim and lake combine to give one of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Mount Rinjani and its surrounding areas are projected by the Gunung Rinjani National Park. At 41, 330 hectares, it is slightly bigger than half the size of Singapore(714 sq km). Although animal sightings – apart from monkeys, are quite rare in the park, there are a few decent hot springs and waterfalls to dip in.

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Gunung Stong, Kelantan Malaysia

The Gunung Stong State Park (GSSP) also known as Jelawang Jungle lies in central Kelantan.  There are several peaks in the area, the most popular among climbers and hikers are Gunung Stong, Gunung Ayam and Gunung Baha. The other popular attraction is the seven-tiered Stong Waterfalls, reputed to be the highest in Southeast Asia. Not far from GSSP lies a group of caves formed over 225-million years ago. Collectively known as the Dabong limestone caves, the caves have now become a staple part of the tourism packages offered by tour operators to GSSP.

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Impression of Penang & Penangites

My first impression of Penang is as that i have stepped back in time into historic Singapore, back in the 1970s. Most of its buildings/ shophouses built back in the 1950s/ 1960s are still intact and it is refreshing to see the skyline of Penang not being dominated by skyscrapers and swanky new tall buildings like most of the other bustling cities. Even though the facade of Penang’s shophouses may seem like they have lost their past grandeur, (with their faded walls and all), one can still pretty much imagine how life was back in the 1970s. Take a walk around Georgetown, a designated UNESCO world heritage site, the shophouses coupled the street peddlers hawking their wares in a pushcarts would make you feel as if you have really travelled back in time. To make your experience even more nostalgic, I would recommend renting a retro bicycle (with the basket in front of course) to explore around with. Tip from me: Do pick Sunday to cycle as there is no traffic in Georgetown (they have closed off the roads specially for tourists). I did my cycling exploration on a Friday, which was a working day, so i basically had to jostle with motorbikes, trucks and cars along the streets. Being a Singaporean who is used to obeying traffic lights, I must admit that i was initially a little frazzled while trying to cross / cycle across Penang’s streets. Continue reading

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Moung Agung

Upon arrival at Denpasar Airport at 11pm, we were picked up in a MPV by our friendly English speaking driver Botak to the village at the base of Mount Agung. Along the way, we dropped by a 24-7 convenient store to buy some mineral waters and snacks for the climb. It was a 2.5 hrs. drive to Botak’a house in the village where we met up with our mountain guide Ketut. After some refreshment of coffee, tea and snacks, we were driven to the park office for climb registration (approx. 10 min drive from Botak’s house).

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Flores Adventure

Day 01

A week before our Flores trip, Mount Rinjani located just across the Straits from Bali erupted and caused flight diversion and Bali airport closure. The situation was not optimistic and we thought that we might have to cancel our holiday again. Fortunately just one day before our trip, the volcanic activity subsided, Bali airport reopened and our flight to Flores resumed. We boarded the plane happily without worrying whether it was really safe to fly near an erupting volcano.

We flew in to Labuan Bajo from Singapore with a transit in Bali via Garuda Airline. The flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo took about 1hr 30min. For this short flight, we were expecting to take a small propeller plane but to our disappointment it was a jet plane instead. The plane cruised at a relatively low altitude throughout the flight, we could see dozens of pretty small uninhabited islands and even some volcanic peaks (including the smoking Rinjani) through the plane window. Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo was a very small airport with only 1-2 planes in the field; giving us the impression that we were really in for some outback experience. To our amazement, there was a taxi booth inside the airport with a list of fares to the various hotels in town. The fare to Golo Hill Top Hotel (http://www.golohilltop.com/) was 60K IDR per vehicle. It was quite expensive considering that it was only 10 min drive to the hotel. However we took the cab without much complaint for we knew that it was a “wholesale” rip off rather than a tout rip off which we experienced ample times in Bali. The driver was conversant in English and was very friendly. He even stopped along the way to allow us to take some nice photo of the scenery. Golo Hotel ran by two friendly Dutch ladies was about 10 min walk from the town center but its location on top of a hill overlooking a tranquil and scenic bay more than offset the slight inconvenience. The room was very clean with air-conditioner and reliable hot shower – something which most Singaporeans can’t do without.

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Mount Kerinci, Sumatra Indonesia

Mount Kerinci, located in the province of Jambi, is known for being the highest volcano in Indonesia and having the highest peak on the island of Sumatra. It is surrounded by the lush forest of Kerinci Seblat National Park, home to the endangered species of Sumatran Tiger and Sumatran Rhinoceros. Kerinci is one of the most active Indonesian volcanoes with eruptions virtually every year. The mountain can be accessed from Village Kersik Tuo, which is 6 or 7 hours away from Padang by car or bus. The climb to the summit and back takes about 2 days, with an overnight camp at one of the checkpoints. The area around Kerinci has 15 lakes, of which the biggest are – Kerinci Lake and Gunung Tujuh Lake. Gunung Tujuh Lake is also known as the Seven Mountains Lake, as there are 7 peaks surrounding it. At 1,992 meters, it is the highest lake in Southeast Asia.

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River Abseiling, Rafting and Caving in Gopeng

Gopeng is small town located in the District of Kampar, Perak, Malaysia. It is situated about 20km south of Ipoh. The town was once was bustling with tin miners and locals who busied themselves with the great tin mining industry of Malaysia until the collapse of the tin empire in 1980s. The town being in close proximity to Kampar river (water rafting, abseiling etc) and limestone outcrops like Gua Tempurung (caving) is becoming a major attraction to outdoor enthusiasts. Lim Bo Seng WWII resistance fighter of Force 136 was captured by the Japanese at a roadblock in Gopeng in 1944.

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Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabula at 4,095m high is one of the tallest mountains in South East Asia (there are a number of mountains in Myanmar and Indonesia West Papua which are higher than Kinabula). It is one of the most accessible high mountains (above 3,000 m) in the world. The starting points of the climbing trails located near the park HQ area are reachable via normal road and the summit can be scaled under normal climbing pace in 2 days 1 night (though top conditioned climbers can climb to the top and back in less than four hours).

There are two main climbing routes: Timpohon trail (6km in length) and Mesilau trail (8km in length and more undulating). Both trails end at Laban Rata (3,314 m asl) where climbers stay for one night before commencing on the summit climb between 2-3 am. From Laban Rata, the climb to the summit is 2.7 km. The aim is to reach the summit before 6 am to see the sunrise. After the summit, majority of the climbers will trek back to Laban Rata (via the same route as coming up) and then back to park HQ (via either Timpohon or Mesilau trail). For the more adventurous, they can make the descend back to Laban Rata via Via Ferrarta which is a mountain path (on the cliff side of the mountain) consisting of a series of rungs, rails and cables embracing the rock face.

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