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.

But i digress.

The main highlights of Penang, are the locals, aka Penangites.

The penangites, are truly an extraordinary lot. Perhaps it is because they still live in these old buildings, retaining their history and lifestyle, it feels to me as though they also retained the very friendly kampung spirit around their community. Sadly, this trait is something that has been lost to most Singaporeans, where we live in high rise HDBs and shut our doors tight once we get home.

Most, almost all of the local cab drivers that I met were extremely chatty, and extremely helpful. Do take note, most of the taxis do not run on the meter, but so far, based on my experience, none of cab drivers tried to overcharge me. Curious about why they do not follow the meter (something else that a Singaporean like me is unused to), I simply had to ask why. One of the cab uncle kindly explained that as Penang is too small, it is hard for them to earn anything if they had to follow the meter prices. So far, i do think that the prices are pretty reasonable, especially so if you have 4 persons to share the cab with. As a gauge, this is what i paid: 10 MYR to travel around Georgetown, 40-50 MYR to get from Georgetown to Batu Ferrionnghi (about 45 mins ride away) So i have digressed (again). This is about the cab drivers. Favourite topic for us: Food. My favourite question for cab drivers is to get them to recommend food places. They have all been pretty helpful, and one particular driver even patiently showed me all the food places while he drove me to my destination. They are all really diplomatic though, and draw the line at naming the best (aka no.1) food places. Their common tagline is that everyone has different tastes, and that what they consider to be the best may be different from what we prefer. So they would rather recommend a couple of options for me to try out myself.

All the local hawkers were also extremely friendly. (Caveat: You’ve got to catch them when they aren’t that busy though) There was this particular auntie who sells drinks at one of the food court along Victoria St. It was nearly 2pm and I was still roaming the streets, looking for a good place for lunch. (As it was a really short trip, I had to make sure that all my meals/ calories were well spent on good food) So i was recee-ing this food court place, undecided on what to eat. This auntie was already having her lunch outside her drinks stall, noticed me walking around, looking around aimlessly. (Side note: That food court was really local, being non-airconditioned and all, and the best part is that they actually do not display what they sell very visibly. Which explains why i spent quite a lot of time looking around, actually trying to figure out what each stall was selling.) So this auntie noticed me being indecisive, and gave a couple of suggestions on what was good. She suggested the curry mee, and explained that it was unique as it was a “white” curry. Being already starved, I decided to give it a shot and that curry mee turned out to be one of the best dish i had in Penang. (cheap as well!) So while i was eating / waiting for my food, the auntie struck up a really long conversation basically suggesting what we should do: cycle around to see the street art, visiting the jetties clans, etc. The most amusing part of the conversation is when she shared that Singapore’s Mediacorp actually used the food court where i was in to film our own local Singaporean tv show- Mata Mata 2. She also pointed out several spots nearby where several Chinese movies / tv shows were filmed. The irony of it is that even though I am a Singaporean, the truth is, i don’t watch much tv. (and even if i were to make time for tv, i would opt to watch korean drama serials instead) So you can imagine how embarrassing it was, when i couldn’t identify the local Singaporean shows that she mentioned. I was curious how she knew so much about the Singaporean shows, so I asked if she could even receive our local TV signal (how else would she be so well-versed in the serials?) And guess what, she said that she would buy the DVDs to watch some of the more famous local shows! I was truly amazed, and of course embarrassed. The shows are free to air on TV for us, yet we don’t appreciate it as much as our neighbours who would not mind paying to watch them!

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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).

We started the trek around 2am which was considered a bit late as most trekkers start the trek around 1am. From the park office, we climbed up a flight of 300 concrete steps to Pasar Agung temple (1500m). At the gates of the temple, our guide made an offering to the Gods to seek for protection and safe return from the sacred mountain. The trailhead was located on the right side of the temple compound. The initial part of the trek was through a secondary forest of low trees and shrubs.

After 2 hours of trekking, we reached a cross junction where the left path led to the summit and the right path led to the crater rim. This was the decision making point where we had to decide which trail to take; the easier and safer crater rim trail or the challenging and summit trail. The crater rim trail ends at the crater rim and does not lead further to the summit while the summit trail ends at the summit and does not pass by the crater rim. Ketut forewarned us that the summit trail was much steeper, narrower and longer than the crater rim trail and that there were a number of steep drop-off by the side. Since we already paid for the summit trail package (the crater rim package was slightly cheaper), we decided to give it a try. However after about 15 min of treading along precarious path, LY threw in the towel and we backtracked to the cross-junction. Later on we were informed by Ketut that 99% of trekkers go for the crater rim and only rarely do they bring trekkers up the summit. We consoled ourselves that the summit trail was probably reserved for the die hard or super fit.

After the cross-junction, the forest gave way to bare volcanic rock terrain. It started to get colder and windier above the tree line. I was wearing a fleece jacket with a dri fit tshirt beneath and a track pants. I started to regret my laziness for not bringing my beanie or gloves along. It made me feel better to see some brave-hearts (or silly souls) wearing only short and t-shirts. Along the way, we were accompanied by starry skies above and city lights below. Occasionally, our eyes were blinded by the powerful headlights of our fellow trekkers. If there is any climber’s equitique, one of it should be never cast your headlight onto other trekkers’ eyes.

It took us another 2 hours to reach the crater rim which was only about 150m lower than the summit. At the crater rim, Ketut asked us whether we wanted coffee or tea. At first we thought that he was joking, then he took out a big thermal flask and bags of coffee, tea and sugars from his bag and started making hot beverages for us. He also served us some local biscuits to stave off our hunger. It was already dawn by the time we reached the crater rim but the sun was nowhere to be seen (difference between dawn and sunrise). We waited for another 20 mins before the sun rose from the horizon and cast it first rays across the surrounding peaks. From the crater rim, we could see the lofty Mount Rinjani of Lombok island to the east, Mount Batur – Bali most active volcano – to the west  and the beautiful coastline of east Bali below us. After sunrise, we descended down the mountain via the same way which we came up. It took us about 3 hrs to return to Pasar Agung temple.

10 Humble Tips on Climbing Mount Agung

1. A pair of trekking shoes (preferably mid or high cut for good ankle support). Otherwise normal track shoes with good traction will be good as well.

2. Headlamp (preferably those LED based for stronger illumination). Hand torch is not recommended as you need to be hands free for the scrambling towards the summit.

3. Have a cup of coffee or tea before the climb to keep the drowsy bug at bay if you are going for the overnight climb.  Some guides will invite you to their houses for simple refreshment like coffee or tea before the climb. Otherwise canned coffee can be bought from the convenient stores located along the road to the park office.

4. It is a good idea to conduct a water parade (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/water_parade) 30 min before the trek so that your body will be well hydrated before you start the trek.

5. Trim your toenails before the trek. On downhill trek, untrimmed toenails will be constantly hit against the front of the shoes and might result in bruised toenails.

6. Bring a trekking stick along for the trek to reduce impact and strain on your back and lower limbs and especially when going downhill.  Studies have shown that trekking sticks when used correctly can reduce the body weight carried by the legs by few kilograms per steps which translate to significant amount for the whole trek.

7. Bring along sunblock lotion for your face, neck and limbs as the sun is going to be blazing hot on your return leg down the mountain.

8. Waterproof all your electronic gadgets and passport in a ziplock bag or waterproof pouch. Weather in the mountain can be very unpredictable, you do not want to drench these vulnerable items in a downpour.

9. There is no water source along the trek. Bring at least 1.5-2 liters of water for the whole trek. It is always better to bring more than less. If the weight gets too heavy for you along the trek, you can still drink up or drain away some of the excess water to lighten the load.

10. Wear enough warm clothing for the trek. Most of the body heat are lost through the head and fingers so a beanie and a pair of gloves will be great for keeping you warm for the night. I recommend you to wear at least 2 layers for the trek; a dri fit tshirt as the base layer and a good quality fleece or wool jacket for the outer layer. You can also consider wearing a third layer of wind breaker to block the wing. For your lower limbs, a slightly thick track pants will suffice.

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Flores Outback Trip

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.

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Fuming Rinjani in the background

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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Nice bay view from our hotel

We went to the town area to look for tour package for Cunca Wulang Canyon and Komodo/Rinca Island. The prices offered by the various agencies were more or less competitive but we couldn’t tell their quality and reliability till we tried them. After asking around for more than 1 hr, we finally decided on one agency based on some traveller intuition and physiognomy – though it turned out wrongly many times:( We patronized the number 1 restaurant in TripAdvisor - Sushi Banana. We ordered a maki roll and a bento for only 230K IDR. It was surprisingly refreshing considering where we were at. After dinner, we took a private taxi back to hotel for 40K IDR.

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Best sushi in Labuan Bajo

Day 02

The agency driver picked us from the hotel around 7am. It was a 1hr 30min drive from our hotel to Wersawe Village where the trailhead of the trek was located. There was an official booth at the trailhead where we made payment for the hiking permit. We hired one of the villagers (who couldn’t speak any English) as our trekking guide. The trek to the canyon took about 45min along relatively flat terrain. At the river, we saw two villagers catching fish in waist deep water. Their fishing tackle consisted of a long and thin flexible grass stalk (which served as the fishing rod) with a small string loop at one end. No bait was used at all. When an unsuspecting fish swam into the loop, the angler would cast the rod upwards thereby trapping the fish within the loop. It was an ingenious but painstakingly slow fishing method.

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Muscle man fishing in water

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Catch of the day

We climbed to the top of the canyon which was about 10m above the water surface. The canyon was famous for cliff diving – one of us jumped down from the edge of the canyon into the water below. Instead of this daredevil act, i entered the river from another side of the canyon where the water touched the bank (yeah, i am a scaredy cat). We swam to the plunge pool of the waterfall and enjoyed some jacuzzi massage under the falling water. The waterfall was not especially impressive but the surrounding beautiful landscape and nice cooling swim more than made up for it.

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Brave heart

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Cool swim

In the evening time, we walked from our hotel to the waterfront in town There were many street food stalks selling BBQ seafood. The laid out their fresh seafood in front of their stalks. A decent size red snapper (about 400g) cost about 50K IDR. We ordered a BBQ red snapper, calamari sambal kangkong and two big bowls of bakso soup noodles. It was quite an authentic local dining experience as most of the diners were locals. After dinner, we went over to the mini mart across the road to buy our desert - magnum ice cream. Exactly the same magnum as you get in Singapore but at half the price! Along the way back to our hotel, we saw a very bright shooting star streaking across the sky.

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Fresh seafood

Day 03

Komodo National Park consists of the three main islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Padar Islands and numerous smaller islands. The highlight of the Park is the Komodo dragons – the largest lizard species in the world. A full grown dragon weights up to 70Kg and can be more 2-3m long. The dragon is endemic in Komodo National Park which means that it cannot be found in other parts of the world. Komodo and Rinca islands are the best sites within the Park to see the dragons. We signed up for a private tour which combined a visit to Rinca Island with snorkeling in Kelor Island and flying fox (bats) watching in Kalong Island. The tour agency picked us up from the hotel to the boat pier around 8am. The boat was a wooden boat with passenger seats in the front and a toilet at the back. The boat crew consisted of our tour guide Nei Gui, the boat captain and his helper. To our astonishment, there was no life jacket provided even though Nei Gui told us earlier that life jacket would be provided. Nei Gui apologized to us for the overlook and tried to assure us that the boat ride would be safe even without the life jacket. We refused to set sail without the life jackets as we had heard of many tragedy boat incidents around the Komodo region. The boat captain rode the boat to a quiet corner of the pier and jumped aboard a group of anchored boats. He disappeared for about 20 minutes and then came back with some life jackets. Apparently he had “borrowed” the life jackets from some other boats. About 30 minutes into the journey, we saw something jumped out of the water – it was a school of 2-3 dolphins. We were exhilarated as the dolphins were very near us and we didn’t expect the dolphins to appear so close to the mainland. Kelor Island about 1.5 hrs boat ride from Labuan Bajo is a very small uninhabited island with a hill that overlooks the surrounding vista. There is a small trail that leads to the top of the hill but we didn’t go for it.

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Our wooden boat

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Snorkeling boat for the luxury package

The waters around Kelor Island were very clear, shallow and teaming with fishes and life corals. We had to constantly keep ourselves afloat so as not to step on the corals. The moment i stepped onto the coral, i had a slight feeling of guilt and felt instantly that there was no such thing as ecotourism – once you enter the ecosystem, you will bound to destroy a part of it no matter how careful you are. We saw many colourful reef creatures including nemo fish, nudibranch, urchin and starfishes. Interestingly, the shallow water gave way to a deep trench about 20 m from shore.

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Crystal clear water

There were 4 different permit/entrance fee which we had to pay in order to see the dragons in Rinca; entrance fee (150 IDR), trekking permit (5 IDR), wildlife observation permit 10 IDR) and trail permit (80 IDR). It was quite an amusing fee system. Perhaps they should simplify things by combining them into 1 or 2 fees. There are three hiking routes in the park; short (45 min), medium (1.5 hrs) and long (3 hrs). We signed up for the medium hike hoping that we could see more wildlife if we hiked longer. It turned out to be a wrong decision. The weather was very dry and scorching hot and there was no shelter along the way. Along the trail, we didn’t see many animals except for 2-3 dragons, a deer and some animal skulls. We saw a group of lethargic dragons lazing underneath the huts around the national park office. They didn’t look as menacing as i though probably because they were less active at noon.

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Camera shy dragon – not that frightening after all

Next, we sailed towards Kalong Island to see the flying foxes. But it was too early so we dropped the anchor and waited for the sun to set and the bats to appear. Slightly after 7 pm, we saw some bird-liked creatures flying out of the mangrove swamp. There were more and more of these creatures till the sky was filled by tens of thousands of them. From a distance, they looked more like birds than bats. When they flew overhead us, we could see the shape of the skeletons in their spread wings. Interestingly there was barely any screeching sound even though there were thousands of them. They were flying towards the Labuan Bajo (16km away) to look for food. Imagine if you have to travel so far to look for food everyday:) It was really an amazing sight if you don’t mind the possibility of guano dropping from the sky.

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Flying foxes flying out from the mangrove swamp

Day 04:

We took a public bus from Labuan Bajo to Bajawa with a transit stop in Ruteng. It took us more than 10 hours to reach Bajawa including a 2 hrs lunch stop in Ruteng. The bus was non-air-conditioned and packed with passengers and their belongings. There was even a motorcycle strapped to the back of the bus. According to the driver, sometimes there might be animals like goats and chickens on board as well. We were quite impressed with the road conditions in Flores; it was generally well maintained with very few potholes. Nevertheless, it was still a bumpy and winding ride as the road was laid across the mountainous terrain. The bus would stop at the villages along the way to drop off and pick up passengers.

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Padi field along the way

In Ruteng, we went to one of the best restaurants in town – Rumah Makan Chacha – for lunch. The owners Johan and Yayuk spoke very fluent English and very friendly. From them we came to know that most of their food ingredients were sourced from their family’s farms. On the way back to the bus station, we walked passed a school where the students had just ended school for the day. Some of the students smiled and said hi to us while others ran away giggling as we walked passed them. We felt that we had became an instant celebrity. However some of the older boys assumed an air of nonchalance with well-gelled hair, tuck-out shirts and model-liked standing posture – reminded us of some backstreet boys. 

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Notice the pig on the roof of the public bus

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Notice the live chicken tied to the motorbike

The public bus stopped at a bus stop at the edge of Bajawa town. We called the resort reception who sent a driver to pick us up from the bus stop. It was quite a long drive (30 min) to the base of Mount Inerie where Manalulu Resort is located.

Day 05:

We woke up early in the morning not to the sound of singing birds but to buzzing of cicada. It was like an incessantly loud alarm clock with no snooze function. We found them everywhere in the resort and some of them even “sneaked” into our bedrooms causing a mass hysterical among the girls. Our guide tried to allay their fear by catching one of them and and hold it between his mouth. He told us that he used to eat them as TV snacks when he was a kid! Along the trail to the surrounding villages, we saw many interesting crop plants like candle nuts, cashew nuts, cloves, coffee, cacao, cotton etc. The most interesting and funny looking crop is the cashew plant; its nut actually grows outside its fruits. The fruit known as cashew apple is actually edible and is considered a delicacy in South America.

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Our guide plucking a cashew apple for us to try

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Funniest looking fruits on earth

The area around Bajawa is inhabited by the Ngada people who speak the distinct Ngada language and practice catholicism with a tinge of animism. Unlike their neighbors in other parts of Flores, the Ngada poeple havea matriarchy social system in which the mother or oldest female heads the family and inheritances are passed down only through woman. We visited the traditional villages of Luba, Bena, Tololela and Gurucina which are famous for their unique architecture. The villages consist of 2 parallel rows of high thatch-roofed houses where the families live. In between the 2 rows are pair of shrines - ngadhu and bhaga – one for each clan of the villages. The ngadhu which symbolises the male ancestors is an umbrella like structure crowned by a human figurine holding a parang (harvesting knife) in one hand and a javelin in the other. The bhaga which symbolises the female ancestors is a small hut with a thatched roof. Other than the ngadhu and bhaga, there are also megalith structure which serves as a means for communicating with the supernatural and ancestors. (https://www.wmf.org/project/ngada-villages-flores). Another interesting feature of these villages was the presence of big catholic tombstones in the middle of the village square. They probably belonged to the deceased clan or village heads. Outside the village square, a group of locals were working together to build a school for the children.

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Bena Village

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School building by villagers

In lieu of entrance fee, there was a donation box inside each village where visitors were encouraged to make some money contribution. Even though the villages are well-known tourist attractions, we didn’t see any touts around and the villagers who sold handicrafts were not pushy at all. There was even a prominent signboard at the village entrance which reminded tourists not to give any gifts to the children without their parents’ consents. This is sustainable tourism at its best.  

After the village visit, we went to the Malanage Hotspring to soothe our aching muscles. The river consisted of two streams of water (one hot, one cold)  which joined together to form a wider river downstream. We met a group of friendly basques who helped us to cross over to the other side of the river. I asked one of them whether he was from Spain and he replied without any hesitation “…we are from Basque which is a totally different country from Spain. We speak Basque which is unintelligible to Spanish…” 

Day 06

We set-off from the hotel at 4am for the Mount Inerie (pronounced as “inner ear”) trek. It was a 20 min car ride from the resort to the trailhead at Watumeze village (~1100m). The first 30 min of the trek was along flat terrain with ample tree cover, after which we emerged out of the tree line and saw Inerie’s Peak smiling at us under the starring sky. There was very little trees; most of the vegetation were either grass or shrubs. It was a steep up-slope climb all the way to the crater rim (2,115m). The afar mountains and meadows slowly revealed their features as daylight crept down from the horizon. We saw the beautiful conical volcano – Mount Ebulobo – in the distance. It looked extremely steep to us and were relieved that we didn’t go for Mount Ebulobo only to be corrected by our guide that Inerie was even steeper than Ebulobo.

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Daybreak with the peak of Ebulobo in the background

It took us about 3 hrs to reach the 1st peak. From the 1st peak, the trail to the 2nd peak (summit) looked incredibly steep and precarious. The final push to the summit took about 45 min. We were basically trekking along the crater rim to the summit but interestingly the trail didn’t seem as steep as it looked like. The crater which looked like a deep abyss loomed menacingly large in front of us along the narrow trail. The summit was a small flat ground with a flag pole and an Indonesia flag on it. We trekked back to the 1st peak and from there we took another route – a fast lane – down the mountain. It was a long scree-covered slopes leading from the top to the mid point of the mountain. The slope with the small rocks, peddles and sand was very slippery and we had to literally skid down the exposed slope and adjusting the angle of our feet to slow down the slide. It was quite fun initially but after sometime we got really tired and the hot sun and with all the debris inside our shoes. After the fast lane, we continued via the same route which we used to climb up the mountain. It took us almost 3 hours to get back to the trail head from the summit. Rest of the day was spent on bed resting our resting our sore muscles:)

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Self portrait at the summit

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On the way down from the summit

Day 07

We took a public transport to Moni the last destination of our trip. We set off around 8am and reached Moni around 2pm. The bus did not dropped us directly at Kelimut Lodge Eco Lodge so we had to haul our luggage down the road to the lodge. After checking in the lodge and a quick late lunch, we arranged for a driver to bring us to Kelimutu National Park. Kelimutu is a volcano complex containing three striking crater lakes of varying colors. Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People) is usually blue and is the westernmost of the three lakes. The other two lakes, Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) are separated by a shared crater wall and are usually green or red respectively.

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Muri and Tiwu Ata Polo on the left and right respectively

Proper payment and railing were installed by the national park around the viewing platform. The scenery was still top-notch though it lost some of its rugged feel with the man-made structures around it. The park was very quiet with a few souls as most tourists visit the park in the early morning instead of afternoon to catch the beautiful sunrise. We could not make it for the sunrise view as we had to catch our flight back to Bali in the afternoon. Due to road widening project, the road leading out of Kelimutu to the airport would be blocked daily from early morning till late afternoon.

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Mount Kerinci, Summatra Indonesia

Introduction

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

Introduction

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

Introduction

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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HotBoys Kelong

Introduction

Hotboys Kelong is situated beside Pulau Sibu about  15 km off the eastern coast of Penisular Malaysia. The nearest jetty to the kelong is Tanjung Leman Jetty, which is just off Kota Tinggi and before Mersing. The kelong is no longer used for its original purpose of fish farming/fishing, but is converted into a hoilday resort for fishing enthusiasts and families or friends seeking some rustic place for chilling out and relaxation. There are fishing rods, tackles and baits available on board. Other activities include mahjong, carom, pool, karaoke, island hopping etc. There are drinking water, sleeping accomodation, toilets and bathrooms on board. Meals which come with fresh seafoods are provided by the kelong. Most of the activities including island hopping and meals are included in the package price. Perhaps the only time hoildayers need to fork out money on board is to buy soft drinks which are excluded from the package but selling at a reasonable price. Continue reading

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Gunung Stong, Kelantan Malaysia

Introduction

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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