霞女之旅

Xia's Journey

Taman Negara: From Cave to Capsule

A couple of weeks back, I came across an event posting by SANL (Singapore Adventurous & Nature-Lovers) broadcasting for a trip to Taman Negara (Pahang, Malaysia). It featured spending a night in a cave and another in a capsule. Without any hesitation, I quickly went ahead to make payment for a slot as I reckon that the slots would be snapped out within the next couple of hours. Woohoo… How exciting would that be! I had always wanted to try spending a night in a capsule and sleeping in a cave would be such a cool, awesome “once-in-a-lifetime experience”!

 

In the days leading to the trip, Watsapp messages came flooding in to check, enquire, confirm and affirm anything and everything we could think of.

 

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Stock photo from Google. Woww… Looks awesome. How exciting!

 

28 April, Fri, 8pm

The day finally arrived when 41 of us met up at Marsiling MRT station, 8pm in anticipation for the long queues at the customs since it was a long weekend. We took 3 hours to get from Marsiling to Woodlands customs but surprisingly cleared Singapore and Malaysia customs within an hour! By 12 midnight, we were off and on our way to Jerantut, Pahang.

 

Spending the night on the 44 seater coach for 11 hours, an (inflatable) neck pillow, eye mask or ear plug would provide much-needed comfort. The neck pillow could double up as a pillow in the cave. The ear plugs would come in handy to drown out the echoing snores in the cave. Haahaa…. Ok, I’m kidding. The snores don’t echo, but as everyone is so dead–tired and that we’re sleeping shoulder to shoulder, the snores seemed to fill up the cave.

 

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Our 44-seater coach for the 11 hour journey

 

29 April, Sat, 7am

We got into Jerantut town at 7am and had an hour to savour some Roti Prata (aka Roti Canai in Malaysia). I didn’t know this was the only carbo-loading opportunity, otherwise, I might have gobbled down more pratas! Heh Heh Hehh… : D

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Got into Jerantut town at 7am and had 2 prata kosong and 1 milo kosong for breakfast

 

29 April, Sat, 9:30am

We got to Sungai Tembeling jetty at about 9:30am and were presented with our ‘goody bag’ of 3 bottles of 1.5l of water, a cutlery set (a cup, plate and spoon), a pack of biscuits, a packet of instant noodles and canned food for communal consumption, a sleeping bag (for those who chose not to bring their own) and a sleeping mat.

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OMG… Are these what we are going to carry…??!! Like S-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y….??!!

 

Considering the ‘sudden’ amount of goodies that we received, I had to repack my small, little, day bag into the huge backpack to accommodate the 3 bottles of 1.5l water and all the food stuffs. But to be fair, we had already been forewarned right from the start that we would need to be carrying the 3 bottles of 1.5l water on our own. It didn’t seem tough until reality strike when we had to stuff them into our backpacks and started carrying it.

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Managed to squeeze the 3 bottles of 1.5l water, cutlery set (1 cup, 1 spoon, 1 plate), 1 biscuit, 1 instant noodle, 1 canned food, 1 sleeping bag into my bag. No space already… Had to tie the sleeping mat to my bag and lug it with me.

 

29 April, Sat, 10:30am

At 10:30am, the boat came and sent us across the river where the Taman Negara Park Centre was. There, we did up the declarations i.e. the number of plastics, clothes, socks etc that we brought. By the time the staff finished up the declarations for all 41 of us (one pax at a time! Yawnz…), it was almost close to 11:30am, where we had a briefing by the centre staff on the rules and regulations and safety procedures in the park.

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The declarations had to be done one pax at a time…!! Took about one hour to finish up the whole group of 41 of us!

 

We got back onto the boat and took a 1 hour boat ride to the entrance of the park. Enroute, we had our packed lunch on the boat.

 

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Had our packed fried rice on-board the boat. From Leon’s expression, he doesn’t seem to like it very much… Haahaa…

 

 

29 April, Sat, 1pm

At 1pm, we had finally arrived! Excited, we sprang off the boat and started trekking into the forest. Woohoo… Our adventure starts now…!!

 

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Starting our trek into the forest and to the cave. Our adventure starts NOW…!! Woohooo….

 

The trek was not arduous, but it was not as easy as I had thought. We had to trek through the muddy terrains with our 10kg backpack, going up and down the slopes, climbing over and ‘limbo-rock’ under fallen logs, walking on logs across rivers etc.

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Up and down the slopes, climbing over and crawling under fallen logs, walking on logs across rivers etc.

 

29 April, Sat, 5pm

It took me 4 hours to get from the starting point to the first cave which was the half-way mark. By the time I got here, I was already almost dead-tired and wondering why in the world did I pay to come ‘torture’ myself. Wahahhaa…. As it was getting late and dark skies were looming, everyone paced up and tried to arrive at the cave before it got more difficult.

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I’ve finally reached the first cave which was the (4km) half-way mark. Still have another 4km more to go… Jia you…!!

 

29 April, Sat, 7pm

At 7pm, OMG… I made it to the Gua Kepayang Besar (cave)! Just as I stepped into the cave, it poured. Pheww…. I was really really lucky… Some of my group mates who arrived later almost missed the entrance as it wasn’t prominent, with the fact that one have to climb up to the entrance of the cave, making it rather elusive and mysterious.

 

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No obvious signage near the ground and especially when it was very dark, one could hardly tell that this was the ground entrance to the cave. Had to climb up to the cave using either of the two yellow arrows to be able to get into the cave.

 

The cave is huge and is able to accommodate up to 200 paxs. As there were 3 or 4 other groups on the day that we went, the cave seemed to be ‘packed’ with hikers. Our guide had laid out a ground sheet for us and all we needed to do was to place our sleeping mat and ‘chope’ our sleeping area.

 

Since it was pouring and dark, I didn’t get the chance to go to the river to wash or freshen up. I got my cleanliness fix from the wet wipes and powder that I brought.

 

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A lot of hikers on the day that we went

 

30 April, Sun, 1am

One of our group mates “R” fell ill during the trek and wasn’t able to make it to our cave. Several of the guys in our group were yanked out from their slumberland and activated for the rescue mission. Please see Andy’s first-hand adrenaline pumping account for the rescue mission!

 

30 April, Sun, 9:30am

As the guys had to ferry our group mate in the stretcher back to the starting point, all their belongings were split out to the rest of the team to carry them to the ending point.

 

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By 7am, daylight came into the cave. We started to pack our belongings and stuff the guys belongings into our own bags too.

 

Though my backpack was down by 2 bottles of 1.5l water (Finished 1 bottle on the first day and gave away another to the guys as I reckon they will need it more than I do during their ferrying mission), I had with me two sleeping bags and some miscellaneous items from the guys belongings.

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One sleeping bag inside the bag and one sleeping bag outside the bag and some other miscellaneous items too. Haven’t start, I already ‘cui’ liaoz… Wahahhaa…. : D

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Alvin and his 5 sleeping mats. Although the mats were light, it was quite bulky and difficult to crawl under the tree logs, getting across rivers and meander at the edge of the cliff ~ especially so with his injured leg from the rescue mission on the night prior.

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The pink, blue, black and hmmm… “ah boy’s team” : p

 

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Our only group pic without the rescue mission team. Thankfully, they had one too which I had included it at the end of this blog post.

 

On this day, the trek was made tougher as the terrains got mushier from the downpour last evening. We trekked through the ‘even-mushier-terrains’ with our as heavy or even heavier backpacks, going up and down the more slippery slopes, climbing over and ‘limbo-rock’ under fallen logs and walking on logs across rivers.

What was significantly different was that, there were many many more waddling across rivers and mud plains as well as meandering around the cliff on the second day as compared to the first.

As many of the rivers and mud plains were mid calves or knees high, all our shoes were totally soaked through. Our team mates in their Kampung Adidas were good, whilst the rest of us in hiking shoes were fretting over how to get our shoes out of the mud and how to get the mud out of our shoes. Hahahaa…. :”D

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Totally soaked (feet) in rivers and mud. Don’t even need to dream of coming out unscathed…

 

30 April, Sun, 2:30pm

I arrived at the Orang Asli hut at about 2:30pm and had a good 15 minutes rest before heading to the ending point / ferry pickup point, which was a mere 10 mins walk away.

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Arrived at this Orang Asli Hut where we had some respite from the heat and rested our aching shoulders and sore feet. Heard from one of our group mates that the Orang Asli inhabitants actually asked them for RM5 as “shelter fees” after the whole bunch of us left. Haahaa…

 

30 April, Sun, 3:30pm

Seeing that most of us had arrived, the guides decided to make us lunch. We brought out our instant noodles and handed them over to the chef. Famished, we waited… waited… and waited… Ahh… Its ready! The noodles were snapped up in minutes and devoured in seconds. That was probably the most delicious noodle we’ve ever had.

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Ohhh… Yummz yummzz yummzzz… Faster cook, faster cook, very hungry already….

 

30 April, Sun, 4:30pm

Two of the boats came (one after another) and sent the first 20 of us to the campsite. As the boats came in staggered timings and we were unable to have the Rapids Shooting against the other boats, our boatman made it up to us by having our own Rapids Shooting!

 

Going at incredibly fast speeds, he pivoted the boat to 45 degrees on both the left and right sides. We were screaming our lungs out, whilst having a nice cool shower. Unfortunately, the boat ride only lasted 15 minutes and before we knew it, we had reached the campsite. Awwww….

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Our boatman was very kind and gave us our own Rapids Shooting adventure!

 

30 April, Sun, 5pm

We got to the campsite and I finally got a glimpse of our capsule. Ohhh… how cute they were. And the bed sure looks fluffy. I was so glad to be able to have my first shower in 48 hours too!

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There were tents and capsule. I was lucky to have gotten a capsule accommodation. Forgotten to take a pic with my “bed-mate”; Regina. Heh heh hehh… : p

 

30 April, Sun, 8pm

Whilst we waited impatiently for the guys to return and still not getting any news, we had a BBQ dinner, some ‘kpo-ing’ session and a birthday celeb before we called it a night.

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Got BBQ chicken and coffee cake. Damn shiok…

 

1 May, Mon, 8am

With the trip coming to an end, the guys finally returned in triumph. Woohooo… Yayy… The park rangers had sent our team mate to the clinic and we will swing by to pick her up upon checking out. As the guys shared their stories, I couldn’t help but feel proud of them and ashamed of myself.

What we had gone through was only a minor fraction of what they had to go through, and yet I was constantly lamenting how heavy my bag was, how painful my shoulders were, how slippery the ground was etc etc etc… : X

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So glad to see the guys back! But poor things… They have so many more vampire bites on their legs as compared to us… :”(

 

1 May, Mon, 9:45am

As quite a number of our team mates wanted to do the Canopy Walkway, I decided to tag along too. Thinking that it will be easy and stable as like Singapore’s MacRitchie Tree Top Walk, I went empty-handed, except for my mobile phone.

 

The Canopy Walkway was just directly across the river from the campsite and took us less than 15 minutes to get across the river to the starting point.

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The Canopy Walkway was just directly across the campsite where we stayed. Can even see and swim over. Haahaa….

 

The Canopy Walkway started off low and as we progressed, it got higher off the ground and my legs started getting as wobbly as the suspension bridges. There were a total of 6 platforms and even a stretch of ‘ladder steps’ to make our way down. Having been on quite a number of suspension bridges, I have never come across ‘ladder steps’. Hmmm… That’s interesting. It was a relatively easy walk, but yet I was soaked to the skin after the walk.

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Soaked through after the 530m long, 40m high Canopy Walkway

 

1 May, Mon, 11:30am

At 11:30am, “R” re-joined us back on our coach! We were so glad she was feeling much better and rejoiced in her return.

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Slowly and surely, she’ll make it. Jia you, “R”! We will all be praying for your speedy recovery.

 

1 May, Mon, 11:30pm

At 11:30pm, we have finally arrived back at Singapore customs. I grabbed a bag off the luggage compartment and headed for the customs. As I placed the bag (facedown) onto the conveyor belt for scanning, I noticed a sleeping bag hooked onto it. Hmmm… thinking aloud, “Somebody must have unknowingly hooked the sleeping bag onto my bag” or so I thought…  Taking no notice of it, I left with the bag and stood at the gates waiting for my taxi companions; Andy and (son) Wei.

 

As Alvin stepped out from the gates, I waved goodbye to him. He waved goodbye and asked (randomly), “Did you happen to take Felicia’s bag? She took the wrong bag.” I was thinking, “Who in the world would be so cuckoo” and laughed aloud. I decided to put down the bag as it was getting heavy. “OMG…. IT’S ME….!!! This isn’t my bag…. Wahahahaa….” I managed to catch Felicia as she stepped out and got our bags swopped. Thinking back, it was hilarious and the trip ended off on a lighter note.

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See… Felicia’s bag on the left and my bag on the right… Looks almost the same right? Hahahaa… Ok ok… I’m just finding excuses for myself for taking the wrong bag! Small prawn has become “Big Head Prawn”.

 

Some After-thoughts

Through this trip, I am glad the whole team stood as one although many of us didn’t know each other prior. We struggled, we persevered, we didn’t give in and didn’t give up and we pulled each other along the way. Nevermind that we were slow, we leave no man / woman behind.

A big Kudos to the guys who were so selfless in the rescue mission. They were yanked out from their sleep, bear the brunt of the cold, had inadequate food and water, suffered numerous slips, falls, leech bites and blisters and yet having to go through the many hurdles of the wet, muddy, slippery trail. My deepest respect to them!

I found solace in this strong sense of camaraderie which kept my heart my warm and brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it. It may not have been the most enjoyable trip but it sure resonates in us how much we could achieve when we come together as one.

Below’s an excerpt from our team leader which echoes my sentiments. Thank you all, for all that you have done. You have been an inspiration to the rest of us.

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Love Note from TS part 1 / 4

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Love Note from TS part 2 / 4

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Love Note from TS part 3 / 4

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Love Note from TS part 4 / 4. Finally finished liaoz… He quite lorr sohh right… Hahahaa…. : p

 

29. Our Heros

A BIG KUDOS to our HERO team! Thank you guys for your awesome, selfless act of kindness!

 

Last but not least, I like to end off with some tips for future hikers to Gua Kepayang Besar (cave). It may not be comprehensive and exhaustive but it should be able to cover the bulk of it.

Some Tips when trekking to Gua Kepayang Besar (cave)

–          (Inflatable) Air Cushion Neck Pillow to have better neck support as its going to be a long draggy 8 hours (or more) coach ride from Singapore to Pahang.

 

–          Workmen / Painting Gloves as you would need to grab lots of roots, tree trunks, ropes or anything else that you could grab hold of, to prevent yourself from falling.

 

–          A 30l (or more) Backpack  to carry 3 bottles of 1.5l of water, communal canned food for dinner and breakfast, cutlery set, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat. I had initially thought it would be sufficient to bring a small little bag since it would just be one night in the cave. How wrong could I be…!! Thankfully, I had a bigger backpack and made the swop last minute seeing that I had soooooo much more things to lug with me!

 

–          Hydration Salts, Nuts, Energy Bars to last you through the 6 to 7 hours hike x 2 days

 

–          Headlight would be ideal so that you could free both hands if you should need if you ran into nightfall.

 

–          Some of the teammates swore by Kampung Adidas since it was a rather wet and muddy terrain. All of our “branded” trekking shoes were soaked (entirely) in rivers and mud and many fell apart.

 

–          Mopiko/Axe Oil came in handy to get rid of leeches since many of us didn’t have a lighter on us.

 

–          Some Prior Hiking Experience / a Reasonably Good Fitness as it was a rather long muddy trek with lots of hurdles such as going up and down slopes, waddling over rivers, climbing over and crawling under fallen logs, meandering along cliffs for a continuous 6 to 7 hours x 2 days. With the 10kg heavy backpacks on us, it was certainly no walk in the park.

 

Below’s a video taken by Kee Wan on the first day before he was called away for the rescue mission on the second day morning. The video gives a good idea of the route on day 1 and from the second minute onwards, it shows some obstacles that one would have to go through before the video ends off at the cave. Enjoy 🙂

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BBB in Bali

As like every other year, I would attempt to do a sunrise on my birthday; i.e. Sunrise on a sunflower field in Thailand, Trekking up Mt Kinabalu or a Cold chilly sunrise at Bagan, Myanmar.

For 2016, I thought I should take a break and go on a yoga retreat instead. And so I went ahead to book my air tics and yoga retreat package at Bali.

Alas, 3 weeks before my trip, I had a nasty fall and broke my left elbow and fractured my right thumb during a night cycling. As I had paid for the deposit at the yoga retreat centre, I managed to cancel the yoga retreat package and had it converted into a two nights accommodation.

BBB in Bali

Had a nasty fall three weeks before my yoga retreat and had to cancel it.

Fast forward to 1 Dec, I flew over to Bali and made my way to the yoga retreat centre.

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Arrives in Bali and wowww…. was really an impressive airport.

2 Dec 2016, Friday

After staying 2 days at the yoga retreat centre in Canggu (Serenity Eco Guest House). I had to make my way to Kuta.

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Had a two-days stay here. Love it for its rustic-ness and the variety of yoga classes. But as the premise was really huge, many of the spots were not well-kept and at times, dusty. I had not sneezed so much in a long time.

As I was wandering along the streets outside the resort, I chanced upon a “motor-taxi” and after some negotiations, we agreed at IDR 50,000 from Canggu to Kuta, which was about an hour’s ride away. I thought I had gotten a good deal, but bammm….

After boarding the bike, he started talking. Being the chatty and talkative me, I started replying too, thinking that he was just being friendly and letting my defences down.

Below’s a transcript of our conversation. Thinking back, I think it was both scary and funny… Wahahaa…

Babbling Bike Boy (BBB)

BBB: Are you here on this trip alone?

Me: Yaa.

BBB: Your boyfriend never come?

Me: Ohh… He’s busy.

BBB: So, do you have sex with your boyfriend everyday?

Me: (Hmmm… what kind of question is this and what business is it of his!?) Hmmm…. Yaa…

BBB: So, is he good in bed? And he began to rock the bike!

Me: (Huhh…??!! Omg….) Ohh… yaaa….

BBB: I have a Big, Black Banana. Do you want to try?

Me: Errrmm, No… Thank you.

Me: (Omg… where is he going? Will he send me to my destination? Shall I jump off the bike and get another transport? I do not even know where am I and how easy was it to get another transport if I got off his bike. Thoughts ran amok in my head but I was quite surprised at how calm I was.)

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Babbling Bike Boy with his Big Black Banana (BBB : X )

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Behind this smile was a thumping heart and an amok brain… Should I jump off the bike and run or should I continue with the journey on his bike? OMG… what have I gotten myself into?

He kept going on and on, telling me how good he was in bed. I just kept quiet and prayed hard that I’ll reach my destination soon. Thankfully, I arrived at my destination, for what seems like an eternity.

3 Dec 2016, Saturday

Since I could no longer do the yoga retreat, one of my friends suggested I catch a sunrise at Sanur Beach near Kuta for my birthday.

On 3 Dec morning, I dragged myself out of the bed at 4.30am and decided to catch a (proper) cab to the beach after my ordeal with the motor taxi the day prior.

It was 5am and pitch dark when I got into the cab. The cab driver started talking and asked why am I going to the beach at 5am in the morning. I told him I was there to catch a sunrise.

CD : “Are you here on this trip alone?”

Me : (Instinctively, I knew something was not right because I was asked the exact same question by the BBB (Babbling Bike Boy) the day prior.) “No, I’m here with my boyfriend.”

CD : “Ohh, so, where is he?”

Me : “He’s in the hotel room.”

CD : “I see. Now, its only 5am. You can reach the beach by 5.30am. It’s too early. Why don’t we sit by the beach and kiss?” (He suggested.)

Me : “Ohh noo…. I’m busy.” (Garnering my experience from the previous encounter.) “I’m a travel reporter and I’m here for work. I need to find a framing for the sunrise, take notes etc. I need to document my entire sunrise experience, including this cab ride.”

CD : Suddenly, he knew he was in danger of being “exposed’ to the media. And he laughed. “Ohh… maybe you would write about this cheeky taxi-driver too?”. Ohh yes… you bet. And there, you are… Hahahaa… (Unfortunately it was too dark and I didn’t manage to catch any picture of him.)

Not long after, he called one of his friends to take over the job of sending me to the beach and gave excuses that he had just received another job. Holy crap… But, well, so much for the perils of a single female traveller.

Anyways, I got to the beach and back, safe and sound ~ pheww! And I caught this beautiful sunrise on my 40th birthday. Thank you, God, for the love and protection and for giving me yet another beautiful sunrise.

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Thank you God for the beautiful sunrise!

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Love the smell of a sunrise, though its a tug-of-war with the bed.

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The serenity of a sunrise beats anything else.

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Happy 40th Birthday, my dear friend. May there be many more sunrises to come, and may there be someone dear for me to watch the sunrise with… : )

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Yup… Its a beautiful day and let’s cherish every single day that we have…. be it Birthday or not…

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A New Cycling Route from Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Rengit in Pengerang

With the Economic Transformation programme in place, Malaysia has since placed strong emphasis on oil and gas projects. Pengerang was slated as one of the sites due to its strategic location and major international shipping lines.

The Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) is one of the largest pieces of investments in Pengerang district and located on a single plot measuring about 20,000 acres. The project houses oil refineries, naphtha crackers, petrochemical plants as well as a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal and a regasification plant.

As of January 2013, two major catalytic projects were committed within the PIPC area; (a) a RM5 billion Pengerang Independent Deepwater Petroleum Terminal (PIDPT) and (b) PETRONAS’ RM60 billion Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) Project.

With such a mega-scale development across Pengerang, many of the sites were reclaimed, routes were diverted and settlements rehoused.

Pengerang had been one of my favorite destinations, with its vast rural-scape, greeneries and long stretches of roads with sparse traffic. But now, it may or may not be so anymore….

Despite all these developments, I decided to make my way there on 22 to 23 August 2015 (Sat to Sun) to check out the new route.

The ‘new route’ is now 25km instead of the old 18km route. There are signages pointing to the new route and one is not likely to lose his / her way if you keep a look-out for the signages. I will go into detail of the route by breaking it down into several segments (A, B, C, D & E). The old route is denoted as Segment X. I hope this provides a little insight for those of you who are keen to cycle into Sungai Rengit anytime soon.

New Route Map R1

The New Route labelled as Segments A to E. The old route, Segment X is now closed till 2016. The entire (brown) area in-between Segment B and Segment X is now being reclaimed for the old and petroleum projects.

GETTING FROM TANJUNG PENGILIH FERRY TERMINAL TO SUNGAI RENGIT TOWN

Segment X

The ‘old 18km route’ is now closed and there is no way to get to Sungai Rengit town using this route anymore.

Segment A

After exiting Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal, one would need to travel about 3km on the ‘old route’ before it gets diverted to the new route. Some parts of this route has recently been tarred, whilst there were several segments which were still sandy with pebbles and gravel. There is fairly few heavy vehicles on this stretch.

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My little foldie arriving at Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal

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Off we go, foldie… Ganbatte… 🙂

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The first stretch of the route once you exit the Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal. Some parts of it are newly tarred, which is really comfy to cycle on.

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The first left junction. Once you see this signage, its time to turn left. You won’t miss it cos’ there’s no other route. The straight road (old route) is being blocked and manned by a security who will chase you off should you try to trespass and get through from there.

Segment B

After a left turn from Segment A, I entered into Segment B.

Segment B has been nicely tarred and there is a generous road shoulder for cyclists like us. This segment has lots of bends and a lady that I was chatting with at the ferry terminal, mentioned that there are 17 bends on this route. I’m not sure how true as I lost count halfway into the route. Haahaa… 🙂 There are actually few heavy vehicles on this route as there is another dedicated lane for heavy vehicles on the right side of the road. Throughout this entire 14km, I only managed to catch one hut that one could seek shelter in, should I run into a heavy downpour or storm.

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The first stretch of road once you turn left from Segment A.

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It is relatively quite an easy stretch to cycle on, with a generous road shoulder and minimal heavy vehicles. However, there is virtually little / no shade throughout this entire 14km stretch.

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Apart from this small hut quite a distance away from the main road, I did not see any other ‘shelter stops’. Could be quite dangerous if one runs into a thunderstorm or downpour whilst cycling on this route.

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In Segment B, huge heavy vehicles has a dedicated lane on the right to travel on. Hence, there are few / minimal heavy vehicles on this stretch.

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Segment B is rather easy with few heavy vehicles. However, once you get to this junction where lots of these heavy vehicles merged into the road that you will be travelling on, Segment C becomes a little more challenging.

Segment C

Once these heavy vehicles started to merge into my route, I came to an “expressway segment”. Although this was only a 2 km stretch, it was pretty challenging as there was virtually no more road shoulder for me to cruise on and heavy vehicles were just whizzing past me at high speeds. There was no way I could stop, as there was also no ‘space’ for me to stop at. I had no choice but to pedal non-stop through this entire segment with a short climb on this route.

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Only had time / space to stop to take one pic on this segment of the road. Road shoulder was very narrow with a curb by the side. Could hardly cycle within the road shoulder and heavy vehicles were just whizzing past.

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Turn left for Kota Tinggi or turn right if you intend to head to Sungai Rengit.

Segment D

After I struggled up Segment C (non-stop), how glad was I when I reached the end of it. At the end of Segment C, there is a signage here, indicating a right turn to Sungai Rengit or a left turn to Kota Tinggi. I did a right turn here and headed to Sungai Rengit. There is a bit more civilisation here with petrol stations, shop houses etc. Traffic is heavier here, but there is a small road shoulder at the side. However, do note that this route has quite a number of potholes and do keep your eyes peeled on the grounds and on the front for this 5km stretch.

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Lots of gravel and sand on this segment. And quite a few potholes on this side of the road too.

Segment E

At the end of Segment D, I arrived at this junction. A right turn brings me into Sungai Rengit town and a left turn brings me to the Kuan Yin temple, towards Desaru / Tanjung Balau via the coastal route. However, I have not gone on this route for quite a while and I’m not sure if there are any latest developments on this coastal route to Desaru / Tanjung Balau.

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At the end of Segment D, you will come to this huge junction, which is at the mouth of the town. Turn right to get into Sungai Rengit or left to go towards Desaru / Tanjung Balau via the coastal route.

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As it is, I made a right turn into Sungai Rengit town. This is the last leg and you should reach the town in less than 1km or no more than 5 minutes once you see this signage.

Staying for the Night 

I checked into Hiap Hwa Hotel for my 2d 1n stay. They were not exactly the cheapest, but they were the only ones that I could book on-line beforehand. Most of the other hotels do not take bookings and in recent times, most hotels are fully booked for the weekends. If you are keen to stay for the night, I would strongly advise that you make a hotel reservation prior.

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Foldie finally arrives at Sungai Rengit after a 25km struggle… Good job, foldie… : D

Lunch at Super Lobster

Despite that I was on my own, that didn’t stop me from having my lobster fix. I got to Super Lobster and ordered a Butter Lobster. OMG…..!! The Butter Lobsters really did make my 18km (from home to Changi Point Ferry Terminal) + 25km (from Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Rengit) totally worth the ride. The Butter ‘flakes’ at the top were so soft and sweet which totally melted in my mouth! The flesh of the lobster was so juicy and tender…. Woooo…. Totally heaven…

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Super Lobster’s Butter Lobster. The Butter ‘flakes’ at the top were so soft and sweet which totally melted in my mouth! The flesh of the lobster was so juicy and tender…. Woooo…. Totally heaven… Made my 18km (from home to Changi Point Ferry Terminal) + 25km (from Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Rengit) totally worth it… 🙂

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Nothing left… And just to remind you, I was there on my own and gobbled up this entire dish myself…!!

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Facade of Super Lobster Restaurant which faces the sea

GETTING FROM SUNGAI RENGIT TOWN BACK TO TANJUNG PENGILIH FERRY TERMINAL

Segment E

It was pretty much the same route which I came from. From Sungai Rengit town, I cycled towards the Kuan Yin temple. Just slightly before the Kuan Yin temple, there is a huge juncture to turn left into.

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Turn left at this junction to head back to Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal or go straight to get to Desaru / Tanjung Balau via the coastal route.

Segment D

On this side of the road, there are less potholes and there is a narrow road shoulder for one to cycle on. There is also a long climb up a gradual slope before hitting the juncture to turn left again.

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In this D segment, the opposite direction (going towards Sungai Rengit) was challenging with potholes. At this direction (going towards Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal), there are less potholes and cycling was slightly easier as compared to the opposite direction, except for …. … (see next pic)

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this long upslope. Can be a bit tedious… but still manageable.

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At the end of the upslope, turn left at the junction to go back to Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal or go straight to get to Kota Tinggi via the highway.

Segment C

As compared to Segment C from Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Rengit, the returning was much easier as there was a proper road shoulder as well as a long downslope to gain speed.

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In Segment C (going towards Sungai Rengit town), the road shoulder was narrow and challenging. However in the opposite direction, it is very much easier with a wider road shoulder and long downslope.

Segment B

Segment B is the longest segment as compared to all the other segments, but I would say it was relatively easy and flat grounds throughout this segment, except for lots of bends to cover.

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Segment B is the longest stretch at 14km, but it is rather manageable except that there’s virtually no shelter at all.

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No shelters at all. Rain or Shine…. It gonna be just you and your bike…

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Think this nice piece of green field would be gone in less than a week too….

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The amount of construction is really massive and the scale was much much much bigger than I could imagine.

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If you see coconut trees, breathe, breathe, breathe…. Cos you’re almost there. Follow the road and turn right to arrive at Segment A.

Segment A

This is the last segment and one of the more ‘enjoyable segments’ before arriving back at Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal. There is lots of shade from the trees flanking the roads with the nice cool sea breeze from the sea just on your left.

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Once you get onto this stretch, enjoy the cool breeze from the sea and shade from the trees cos’ its only a mere 3km to arrive back at Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal.

SUMMARY

Below’s a short summary of the route. Hope you have found this post useful.

New Route Map R1
Route Notes
Additional Tips

  • Stock up on hydration before departing for Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal. Once you start pedaling on the 25km, there are no rest stops or shops for you to purchase any hydration or drinks from. There is a convenience store at Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal which opens from Monday to Sunday, 8am to 6.30pm, with a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm. However, I was there at 2.30pm and they were still not open from their lunch break. Hence, dun bang on their operating hours and go prepared.
  • Slap on adequate sun block, mask up and put on safety goggles to keep out the dust. A sample of Miss Kiasu picture below…. Haahaaa… 🙂
  • Do not attempt to cycle during the rainy / stormy season as there are really little or no shelters for most part of the journey.
  • Watch out for heavy vehicles. Have fun and keep safe.
  • For those of you that are keen to cycle in Sungai Rengit, but ain’t able to get a cab at Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal, you can try calling one of these cab-drivers; Mr Eng Ken Boon Hp# 013-783-4278 or Mr Tan Siew Chang Hp# 013-775-0098. Costs about RM32 for a 30 minutes cab ride from the ferry terminal to Sungai Rengit town, My friend who was there recently in late July, waited for more than an hour in a futile attempt to get a cab. Ultimately, they were pretty lucky to hitch a ride into town.
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Damn Kiasu… Muahahhahaaa…. : D

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Foldie goes Tinggi

Date of Trip : 3 to 7 April 2015, Good Friday to Tuesday

Accommodation

Tanjung Balau; Pelangi Balau Resort; RM 160 per night
Kota Tinggi; Heritage Hotel; RM 120 per night x 2 nights
Johor Bahru; Gateway Hotel; RM100 per night

Since getting my little foldie some months back, he has became my best friend. I have been ‘dating’ him often and exploring new terrains with him. Our favorite location is Punggol beach, which is a mere 6km away from home. We have also visited the last kampung at Buangkok, The Animal Resort at Seletar Farmway, an under-redevelopment Coney Island, Lor Halus, BrightHill Evergreen Home at Punggol (where I used to volunteer), Seletar Mall to meet up my friends for breakfast etc. He has also gone Mac Ritchie reservoir, Seletar reservoir and Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall with his 26″ good friend. All of these little outings were within close proximity to home and confined to our little red dot.

Collage

Clockwise from top left: Punggol Beachfront near Marina Country Club, last kampung on mainland Singapore at Lorong Buangkok, The Animal Resort at Seletar West Farmway 5, the path leading to Coney Island.

On 3 April 2015, Good Friday, he broke all grounds and ventured out of Singapore to Kota Tinggi. It was of no mean feat covering that amount of distance on his 20″ wheels, but he did it and I’m so proud of him. I pedaled and pedaled, with the remaining half of my life left, but he didn’t give up and continued to persevere as much as I did. This blog post entails a photo journey of the adventures that we’ve had.

Report Card
Day 1: 3 April 2015, Good Friday
Home to Changi Point Ferry Terminal : 18km (1hr 20mins) Denoted as white line (1) in map below.
Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Renggit : 18km (1hr 20mins) Denoted as yellow line (2) in map below.
Sungai Renggit to Tanjung Balau : 37km (4hr 45mins) Denoted as pink line (3) in map below.
(fyi: Sungai Renggit to Desaru : 31km. Additional 6km from Desaru round-about to Tanjung Balau)

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I’ve got the power! Getting started on my 18km pedal from Tanjung Pengilih Ferry Terminal to Sungai Renggit town (18km).

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No worries, I jes need to follow that yellow highlighter cap in front. Haahaa… 🙂

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It is getting increasingly difficult to cycle from Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Renggit with so many of these huge heavy vehicles crossing in our paths.

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These huge heavy vehicles brought with them mud, sand and gravel and some were spilled out during the transportation process. The roads became sandy and muddy, and hence, increasing the level of difficulty in cycling.

After an 18km from home to Changi Point Ferry Terminal (1) and another 18km from Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Renggit (2), my knees were screaming with pain. By the time I needed to cover the 37km from Sungai Renggit to Tanjung Balau (3), I was already half-dead. With the countless upslopes and long flat grounds, I struggled with all my might and many times, I had to get off to push the bike cos’ I was so flat out.

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Slightly out of Sungai Renggit town, we would pass by this site with red soil. It never fails to bring a wow especially so, when placed against a beautiful blue sky. It feels like Ayers Rock had moved to Pengerang!

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My cycling mate bumped into some of his blog readers whilst we were on our way from Sungai Renggit town to Tanjung Balau.

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Its still a long long journey ahead for foldie … … … …

My cycling mate and I had arranged to meet at Pelangi Balau Resort or Chalet Nelayan Tanjung Balau or Desaru Damai Beach. The latter was a 6km away from the first two and I was praying hard to catch him there cos’ otherwise, I would have to cycle an additional 6km back to Desaru to locate him. At the back of my mind, I was secretly planning my contingencies such as hitching a ride! Haahaa… : O

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Ahhh… I’ve reached the Desaru round-about. Once I’ve arrived here, I knew we were only 6km away from Tanjung Balau. Comeon, foldie, you can do it… Ganbatte…!! I was praying hard and keeping my fingers crossed that he would be at either Pelangi Balau Resort or Chalet Nelayan Tanjung Balau. Cos otherwise, I would have ‘wasted’ cycling 6km to Tanjung Balau and then having to cycle another 6km back to Desaru to meet him. I was so so so dead tired with fatigue that every single pedal counts.

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Thankfully, I found him at Pelangi Balau Resort and by the end of Day 1, I had clocked 73km (18km + 18km + 37km).

Day 2 : 4 April 2015, Saturday
Tanjung Balau to Kota Tinggi : 50km (5hr 25mins) Denoted as blue line (4) in map below.

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Ready to set off for Kota Tinggi…?? 50km ahead. Jia You!

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Passed by the Desaru Fruit Farm which we came to some years ago. Beautiful memories of that trip came flowing back.

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With no shelter ahead, the sky looked like it was about to burst into tears and there were lightning flashing across the sky. OMG, prayed hard and kept my fingers crossed for the lightning to pass quickly and thankfully, our prayers were answered.

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wOO… We’ve reached Kota Tinggi…. at long last…!!

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Clocked 122km in two days.

Day 3 : 5 April 2015, Sunday
Explored Kota Tinggi town on foot

Day 4 : 6 April 2015, Monday
Kota Tinggi to Johor Bahru : 43km (6hrs) Denoted as fuschia pink line (4) in map below.

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Setting off for Johor Bahru. Wish us good luck.

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Went on the Expressway which was a 40km ride from Kota Tinggi to Johor Bahru.

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Did 16km. Only 24km more to go… Comeon, comeon, comeon….

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Whooppsss… Did you see something on the signage?! No bicycles allowed on the expressway and we were actually criss-crossing in and out of it. Ohh dear… It was so dangerous. We were actually a road hazard not only to ourselves but to the other road users too. Terrible! This might be the first and last time we gonna use this route.

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We went through tunnels and look at how fast the vehicles were travelling at! Most of them were travelling at 60km/hr or 80km/hr and I was going at 10km/hr. My gosh…!!

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Movistar and I have reached the junction of Woodlands / Johor Bahru. Had wanted to make a dash back to Singapore but decided to stay for the night after we saw flashes of lightning across the sky.

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Yes, we’ve reached Johor Bahru city centre. The (pedestrians) customs was just behind me. So near, yet so far…. Haahaa… 🙂

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Had clocked 165km in 4 days.

Day 5 : 7 April 2015, Tuesday
Johor Bahru to Woodlands Causeway : 5km (30 mins) Denoted as orange line (6) in map below.
Woodlands to Home : 3km (Cycled to Kranji MRT. Took MRT to Woodlands. Took bus from Woodlands Interchange to Sengkang. Cycled home from Sengkang Interchange.)

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Last leg of the trip from Johor Bahru back to Singapore.

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This is my first time cycling across Woodlands customs using the dedicated motor vehicles lane. The motorists were going so fast and zooming past me. Seriously, I was kinda worried that I’ll topple over… *Feeling scaredz and worried*

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Oh my… I’ve crossed the customs and on my way home from Woodlands. uhOO…

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It was the first time I pushed my bike into a train without folding and also a first time folding the bike and bringing it onto a bus!

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F I N A L L Y,  F I N A L L Y  reached home …. 174km in total.

 

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Foldie made it to Tinggi and back 🙂

(1) Home to Changi Point Ferry Terminal : 18km (1hr 20mins)

(2) Tanjung Pengilih to Sungai Renggit : 18km (1hr 20mins)

(3) Sungai Renggit to Tanjung Balau : 37km (4hr 45mins)

(4) Tanjung Balau to Kota Tinggi : 50km (5hr 25mins)

(5) Kota Tinggi to Johor Bahru : 43km (6hrs)

(6) Johor Bahru to Woodlands Causeway : 5km (30 mins)

(6) Woodlands to Home : 3km (1 hour via train, bus and cycling)

TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED IN 5 DAYS : 174 KM

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Adventuring Yogyakarta

As there were quite a number of attractions at Yogyakarta, I decided to split up the blog post and cover the different attractions in this blog post. You can read (part I) Exploring Yogyakarta here.

Attractions Collage

Clockwise from top left: Jomblang Cave, Prambanan Temples, Borobudur Temple, Parangritis Beach

Date of Trip : 12 to 17 February 2015, Thursday to Tuesday

Flight
To : AirAsia QZ 659, 12 Feb 2015, Thursday, 11.10am – 12.25pm
Return : AirAsia AK 1791, 17 Feb 2015, Tuesday, 7.25am – 10.25am
Cost of Flight : S$220 per pax, with two way 15kg check-in luggage

Accommodation
5 nights Accommodation at Whiz Hotel : SG$123.46 per pax (twin-share)

You can read my review of this accommodation here.

Attractions:

Borobudur Temple
On the second day of our trip, we chartered a cab (from the same cab driver which brought us from Yogyakarta airport to our hotel) for a day trip to Borobudur Temple. As we intended to shoot the sunrise from Borobudur Temple, we chartered his cab for an 11-hour day trip from 4am to 3pm at IDR 350,000.

By 3.50am, we were standing-by and waiting for him at the hotel’s lobby. We started chatting with the hotel staff and upon learning that we were going to shoot sunrise from Borobudur Temple, he suggested that we visit Punthuk Setumbu lookout point too. With his suggestion, we switched plans and decided to make a trip to Punthuk Setumbu lookout point instead.

We reached Punthuk Setumbu lookout point at about 5.15am and paid an entrance fee of IDR 30,000 per pax (SG$3.20) and a parking fee of IDR 5,000 (SG$0.50).

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To our dismay, it was a mountain view with the sun popping out from behind the mountains. We have had tons of mountain sunrise shots with the most recent one from Myanmar just 2 months ago. Disappointed that this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, we decided to make a dash for Borobudur Temple in a last frail attempt to try and catch a glimpse of the rising sun with the Buddha’s silhouette.

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Sunrise from Punthuk Setumbu lookout point. Well, this wasn’t exactly what we have in mind. And instead of spending more time here, we decided to make a dash to Borobudur Temple to try to catch a sunrise with the Buddha’s silhouette.

But alas, we were a tad too late when we got to Borobudur Temple at 6am. The sun had risen.

Nonetheless, we paid the entrance fees of IDR 280,000 and entered the temple.

For those of you that are keen to do a sunrise shoot at Borobudur Temple, you would need to make your way to Manohara Hotel and purchase a Sunrise + Borobudur Entrance Fee ticket costing IDR 380,000. This ticket entitles you to enter the temple before 6am (after 4am).

Guests staying at Manohara Hotel enjoys a discount and pays IDR 230,000 for a Sunrise + Borobudur Entrance Fee. Similarly, this ticket entitles you to enter the temple after 4am and before 6am.

Pricing Structure
Entrance Fee (after 6am) = IDR 280,000
Sunrise (Surcharge from 4am to 6am) + Entrance Fee (Public) = IDR 380,000
Sunrise (Surcharge from 4am to 6am) + Entrance Fee (Manohara Hotel guests) = IDR 230,000

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Covering 2,500 square meters, Borobudur Temple is the world’s largest Mahayana Buddhist monument and this five tiered architectural site has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and houses 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome located at the centre of the top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated within a perforated stupa.

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Lots of lots of stupas but only one facing sunrise that is exposed.

With so many Buddha statues, I had imagined it to be a magnificent sight. I walked round and round and round and round… only to find two Buddha statues that were ‘exposed’. One of the Buddha statues faces the sunrise direction and another faces a different direction. Oh well… It wasn’t peak season when we went and could you actually imagine the number of tourists hogging behind this one ‘exposed’ Buddha statue to shoot during peak seasons.

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This is one of the ‘exposed Buddha’ whilst the rest of the Buddhas were encased within their respective perforated stupas.

According to one of the guides (as eavesdropped), the best period to visit is from May to July. But the best part of us being here during this off-peak season was that, the site was not swarming with tourists and that we were able to capture some ‘clean shots’ of the temple and of course, enjoy our favorite pasttime of camwhoring too!

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A failed standing bow pose… I must practise more liaoz… Haahaa… : D

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Don’t ask me what is this Xiao Char Bo doing…. Cos’ I oso dunno… Haahaa…. 🙂

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The site has a rich history but we didn’t hire a guide cos we wanted to maximise the time to shoot. But, on second thoughts now, maybe we should have done so.

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There were lots of these reliefs and Buddha statues. However, they were not meaningful to us as we did not hire a guide to explain its history.

Hence, after some brief strolls through the temple, we were off to Borobodur Butterfly Park which was a mere 5 minutes drive away.

Borobodur Butterfly Park
The Borobodur Butterfly Park is a very small enclosure that can be viewed ‘at one glance’. There wasn’t much butterflies when we went, and the park seemed to have more floral than butterflies. From our research, they used to charge an entrance fee, but it is now free, possibly in an attempt to push visitorship. With very minimal to shoot, we had a brief stroll through the garden and was out in less than an hour.

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One of the few butterflies that I spotted.

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peek-a-bOO…

Candi Merdut
Before heading for our lunch, we dropped by Candi Merdut temple. It looked pathetically small and with an entrance fee of IDR 3,500 we decided to give it a miss and went for our lunch before calling it a day.

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This was it for Candi Merdut. It didn’t look like there was much to see in there and with an entrance of IDR 3,500 we decided to give it a miss.

Sultan Palace (Kraton)
Sultan Palace, also known as the ton, / Karaton or Kraton defines a place where the Queen and King resides. It was a grand complex that was meticulously planned to reflect the Javanese cosmos. Started in 1755, constructions were completed some 35 years later, in 1790.

Today, it is a museum for visitors in the mornings, and a functioning palace in the afternoons, where it is being used for official functions, political meetings and as the royal residence. Do take note that the palace is only open to visitors from 830am to 1230pm, except for Fridays and Saturdays where it closes at 11am. It is closed on all afternoons.

Located in the city centre, we caught a becek (trishaw), costing IDR 20,000 for a 15 minutes ride to the Kraton.

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We arrived the palace at about 10am, and paid an entrance fees of IDR 12,500 per pax and IDR 1,000 for camera charges. My travel mate was stopped at the entrance for wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and had to purchase a top from one of the stalls. (Strict dress code applies here; No sleeveless T-shirt for guys. I didn’t seem to see any for ladies though and I was wearing a short sleeve tee-shirt with berms.)

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My travel mate wearing his new batik top costing IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10). Dashing right… Heh heh hehh… : D

As we entered the palace, we walked through a pavilion or “Pagelaran” where the Sultan’s ministers and troops used to assemble. Now, this space is being used for musical and theatrical performances on the last Sunday of each month and special occasions such as the Sultan’s birthday. We were pretty lucky that our visit coincided with one of these performances and were treated to a Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet show) although we visited on a Saturday morning. As time was tight, we didn’t sit through the entire performance and started to make our way around the palace.

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How lucky of us to arrive just-in-time for this Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet show).

Most of the pavilions or “pendopo” we came across were, largely open air structures, supported by ornately carved pillars. However, many of these very pretty pavilions were out-of-bounds to visitors and it was really such a shame.

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Many of the pavilions had these signages and were out-of-bounds to visitors. If so, why do they bother to even open up the palace for visitation in the first place, I wondered….

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So much attention given to the pillars.

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Love this ‘street lamp’ near the palace entrance.

Housed within the palace were several ‘museums’, bearing different artifacts of Javanese musical instruments, antiques and heirlooms. Most of the descriptions were either in Bahasa Indonesian or badly constructed English. Either way, it was a good guessing game on what the artifact was about or trying to divulge. With minimal English descriptions, it is a no wonder that this place was an ideal location for the second pit stop in The Amazing Race 19. Haahaa… 🙂

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The only, ‘very palace-like’ pavilion at the Kraton

Taman Sari / Water Castle
2km to the south of the Sultan palace, lies an open secret. Constructed in 1758, the Taman Sari also known as Taman Sari Water Castle was used as a bathing complex, resting area, workshop, meditation area, defense area and a hiding place.

The Taman Sari consisted of four distinct areas; a bathing complex in the centre, a complex of pavilions and pools in the south, a lake in the east and a large lake with islands and pavilions in the west. However, today, only the central bathing complex remains as many other parts of the complex were destroyed during the British invasion in 1812.

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There are two gates leading to the bathing complex. The western gate is known as Gedhong Gapura Hageng and the eastern gate is known as Gedhong Gapura Panggung. Both gates are decorated with ornaments of stylized birds and flowering foliages as seen in above pic.

When I stepped foot at the central bathing complex, I stopped dead in my tracks. Disappointed and disillusioned, the bathing complex’s glorious days … … as it is named… was a thing of its past. It used to be a pool for the royals, but now it just looks like a sad pool for the mozzies. The pool is no longer maintained and the bottom was engulfed by moss and fungi. Ohh well, so much for the awesome pictures that I saw online.

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We ventured around the passages and pathways and came across a group of people sitting inside a circular area. Wondering how they got there, we walked around looking for it. And out of the nowhere, we stumbled upon an entrance to the Gumuling Well (Sumur Gumuling), which was a circular structure being used as a mosque in the 1700s.

The entrance led to an underground tunnel and the underground tunnel had a mystery feel to it and it felt like we were going on some Nat Geo exploration when walked down the steps into the dark tunnel. In there, it was cold and empty with some light coming through the arches.

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Going on a Nat Geo exploration.

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The light coming through the arches made for such awesome ‘feel-yin’ shots.

Reaching the central area of the building was an elevated platform where four staircases meet. And from the platform, there is a staircase that brings one up to the first level. The platform got kind of crowded when everyone tried to get a snapshot on it. Eventually, we didn’t want to wait and left.

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We followed some locals and came to a dilapidated one level structure known as the Kenongo building. In the past, the entire area that we were standing on, was known as the Segaran Lake (a man-made lake). This man-made lake was then the main complex of Taman Sari. In the middle of this man-made lake was an island and on that island, was this Kenongo building.

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Nothing left of the Kenongo Building except this ruins

Today, the Segaran lake has been drained of its water and the lake bed has been taken over by human settlements. There is nothing left of Kenongo building now, except these ruins.

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This area, once an artificial lake, is now filled with human settlements

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Saw this really cool-looking peeping hole at the back of the ruins

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Climbed up this rock and I felt like I’ve been transported to another world

Jomblang Cave
According to the research, not many tour operators knew how to get to Jomblang Cave and hence to save the hassle, we called up the owner directly (Mr Cahyo Alkantana +62 81111 7010).

The transport picked us up from our accommodation at 730am and it was a 2 hours drive to Jomblang Cave. The last 300m leading to the site was very very very bumpy and it could very well be the bumpiest ride I’ve ever ever sat through. Although it was a mere 15 minutes drive on that bumpy stretch, it felt like forever with your guts spilling out from your throat with every bump.

We arrived the site at about 930am and after some tea and fitting on the rubber boots, we were all set to go on our adventure.

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We made new friends!

Sadly for me, they didn’t have any rubber boots of my size, as they were either too small or too big. I didn’t have a choice and had to force my feet into a pair that was two sizes smaller and I finally could comprehend how a bound-feet woman in the Chinese ancient time feels like. It was excruciating! And to top it up, the inside of the rubber boots were wet and muddy from the previous users making it even more nasty.

We got to the edge of the cliff and were hoisted 20 meters down to the bottom of the cave.

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See the staff behind me…? That’s where we were being hoisted 20m down the cliff before getting into the cave. Ohh man… I need Superman powers to do this…!

Upon reaching the bottom of the cave, we had to trek through a forest trail before arriving at the mouth of the cave. As we were there during the rainy season, the way down to Jomblang cave was wet, slippery and muddy. There were no hand rails and proper stairs except for a rope stringed through several poles planted gingerly into the soft muddy ground to act as support. We were literally going on all fours, getting down and dirty.

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After the descend, we made our way into a tunnel and had to trek over rocks, rocks and more rocks. I had to maneuver my way around carefully as it was dark, wet, muddy, slippery and remember that my rubber boots were ill-fitting too! It was made worse as I did not have a strong enough light to illuminate the path ahead of me and I was honestly using my feet to feel my way around. I’m not too sure if the organisers provided headlamps cos’ I was not given one and had to use my own tiny weenie hand-held torch which didn’t provide much light.

After an arduous 20 minute trek, we finally got to Luweng Grubug, a sinkhole with the stunning “heaven’s light”.

It was a very surreal magical feeling when we saw the 90m light pillar shine through the flowstone in the dark cave.

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We climbed onto a calcite rock and basked in the light. The best time to be here is from 10am to 12noon when sunlight shines directly into the hole. We came here hoping to see this ray of light and we were so thankful that it was a bright and sunny day and the light rays coming through were just so strong and majestic. We took shots, lots of it, cos it was just simply amazing and jaw-dropping. Awesome is an understatement.

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See the tiny weenie light that I have on my bag? That’s how much light I had in the pitch dark tunnel. Haahaa… : p

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back up. Awwww….

It has not been an easy caving experience but we loved the authentic experience of going on all fours and getting really dirty rather than the touristy version of well-paved paths and tracks. Despite the many discomforts and high costs, the two hours car ride getting here was totally worth it. It has been our favorite activity on this trip.

Some tips to take note of when going for the caving adventure;
1. Wear clothes that you intend to discard as we got all muddy from the caving and the mud stains were still irremovable after the hotel’s laundry service. Long pants would help prevent any abrasions during the descend as well as provide some additional surface area for wiping the mud off your hands.

2. Bring along a hat / cap or shower cap so that you could put it on before placing the helmet as the helmet reeks of a thousand years perspiration!

3. Wear slip-on foot-wear as you would need to change out into rubber boots cos’ I’m sure you wouldn’t want to stain your clean socks and shoes with mud. (There are shower cubicles where you could wash off the mud though.)

4. Bring along a waterproof camera or house your camera / handphone in a waterproof casing with a lanyard over the neck. The cave is rather wet and it can get quite cumbersome to take the camera in and out from the bag pack.

5. BYOH ~ Bring your own headlamp. I’m not too sure if they provide headlamps cos’ I was not given one. My friend was given a handheld torch whilst the other two guests were given headlamps. I had to use my own tiny weenie handheld torch which was rather weak and didn’t provide much assistance. However, having said that, whatever small amount of light was better than none as it got really really pitch dark at certain segments of the cave. A headlamp would be a better alternative as it frees up both your hands to grab onto the sides if you should need to.

The caving experience costs IDR 450,000 per pax inclusive of a boxed lunch and the transport costs IDR 500,000 per vehicle. Since there were only both of us, we paid IDR 700,000 (SG$73) each. We contemplated on doing so as it wasn’t exactly cheap, but thankfully we decided to go ahead with it as it had been such a phenomenal experience.

Parangritis Beach
Parangritis Beach and Jomblang cave are not too far from one another. My suggestion would be that you speak to the driver that brings you to Jomblang Cave to send you to Parangritis beach after the Jomblang Cave activity ends. I’m not too sure how much additional that will costs as we made the mistake of going back to our hotel at the city centre and then going to Parangritis beach, wasting too much time and incurring higher costs.

map parangritis beach

Parangritis beach is a popular tourist beach located on the southern coast of Java. We were enticed by the mirror reflection on the shallow coastline as seen in many of the promotional pictures and decided to make a trip there. We were so overwhelmed by our caving experience in the earlier part of the day, that it had completely slipped my mind to visit this location right after the caving experience.

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Thankfully, we still had beautiful sunshine when we got to Parangritis beach.

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This beach is not exactly the best beach for swimming as it is known to have strong rips and currents tormenting it. But comes sunset, the volcanic black sand coupled with the shallow coastline turned the shore into a long glistening stretch of mirror, transforming it into an amazing photo piece. Although we didn’t spend a lot of time on this beach, it was our second favorite attraction on this trip.

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Love the beautiful mirror reflection on the beach during sunset

Queen of the South Resort
Our driver suggested we visit “Queen of the South” resort for dinner as it offered a magnificent view of the beach during sunset. True enough, when we got to the “Queen of the South” resort, there was an infinity pool overlooking the sea. I could so imagine myself sipping a cocktail, hanging over the edge of the pool, watching the sun dip into the abyss of the sea. Woww… this is life!

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As the restaurant was closed for that day, we did not manage to have dinner here but we were glad that we dropped by albeit such a short time.

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Prambanan Temples
As we read that Prambanan Temples and Ratu Boko Temple were nearby and that Ratu Boko was a perfect location for sunset, we decided to run the trip in the afternoon and catch the sunset at Ratu Boko. We started the half day tour at 2pm and bamm… not the best decision afterall.

We got to Prambanan Temples at about 3.30pm and after an hour or so, we were still not done.

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Hence, we had to forgo Ratu Boko Temple as the last entry time was 5pm. Since we were unable to catch the sunset at Ratu Boko Temple, we settled for dinner at Boko Resto (a restaurant nearby) so as to catch the Ramayana Ballet performance at 7.30pm.

The restaurant offers a view overlooking the city but the sunset was partially blocked at the angle where we were at. What a shame!

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Nothing fantastic about the dinner, but the view on my left was jes awesome for a rough day like this

We ended the dinner at about 7pm and headed to the Ramayana Ballet performance. And to our surprise, there was no performance on the day that we went! Ahhhh…. How could this have happened?! We miss the sunset and now, we miss the Ramayana Ballet performance. Argghhh…. Well… I guess it was my own oversight that we underestimated the time we needed at Prambanan temples and hence missed the sunset and I had also not researched well enough that there was no performance on the day that I went. Do click on this Ramayana Ballet Performance schedule to check for the performances dates before making your trip down, and hopefully you’ll not make the same mistake that I did…!

It had been an interesting and memorable trip and my ‘favoritiest’ activity on this trip was the caving experience as it offered a very unique and astounding adventure. This was followed by the short sunset that we had on Parangritis beach which was really gorgeous and breath-taking. I am not a shopaholic but I cannot hide the fact that I loved the unbelievable prices I had at Malioboro street which really put ‘shop till you drop’ to the test. And of course, not forgetting the unlimited amount of Magnum ice creams that I had… Awwww… how much I missed that since returning home to SG.

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Exploring Yogyakarta

Date of Trip : 12 to 17 February 2015, Thursday to Tuesday

Flight
To : AirAsia QZ 659, 12 Feb 2015, Thursday, 11.10am – 12.25pm
Return : AirAsia AK 1791, 17 Feb 2015, Tuesday, 7.25am – 10.25am
Cost of Flight : S$220 per pax, with two way 15kg check-in luggage

Accommodation
5 nights Accommodation at Whiz Hotel : SG$123.46 per pax (twin-share)

When I told my friends I’m going Yogyakarta, most of my friends would go, “Huhh, Where? Jakarta you mean…” “No. Not Jakarta. Yogyakarta.” I explained (over and over again). Haahaa… 🙂

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Off to Yogyakarta, not Jakarta.

Yogyakarta can be quite a mouthful for some, and although both are in Indonesia and ends with a ‘karta’, they are not of the same place. As we can see from the map below, Jakarta is pretty much north of Java, whilst Yogyakarta is on the south.

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Same same ‘karta’, but different.

This blog post will hopefully give you a better insight into Yogyakarta; what to expect and what to take note. I’ll be covering some favorite places of interest in the next blog post. Do keep a look out for it.

Where is Yogyakarta?
Located in Indonesia, Yogyakarta is home to Borobudur temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It is also within close proximity to the Prambanan Temples, the Sultan Palace (Kraton), Jomblang Cave, several beaches and museums. Many tourists visit Yogyakarta for its strong Javanese culture and tradition. Today, it is the second most important tourist destination in Indonesia after Bali. With such a massive site for photo opportunities, what could stop my photo pal and myself from making a trip there? It was another check off our bucket list.

Attractions Collage

Clockwise from top left : Jomblang Cave, Prambanan Temples, Borobudur, Parangritis Beach.

Price Haggling
Well, I would never have thought that my price haggling skills would start right from the minute I land at Yogyakarta till the minute I depart.

As we were exiting Yogyakarta Adisucipto International Airport (JOG), cab drivers started crowding around us, asking us where we wanted to go and started tailing us. For a ride from the airport to the city centre / Malioboro area, one of them quoted us IDR 100,000 (SG$11). We did our research and thanks to many of you out there who had so generously shared your information with us, (which I shall attempt to do so as well), we read that a ride from the airport to the city should costs no more than IDR 50,000 (SG$5.50). After much haggling and walking away, he finally relented and charged us IDR 50,000 ~ half of his initial quoted price.

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Lots of cab drivers awaiting to hound you.

On our return journey to the airport, we hailed a cab from the street just outside our hotel. We were told by the hotel staffs that the cab drivers outside our hotel ran on meter and hence got into one of the cabs. After we settled in comfortably, the cab driver quoted us IDR 70,000 for the ride. We insisted that he ran on meter since the hotel staff said so. Disgruntled, he turned on the meter and took us to the airport.

The flagdown rate started at IDR 6,650 and it was a IDR 400 jump each click. When we arrived at the airport, the meter read IDR 54,650. We did not have anymore small change with us and gave him a IDR 100,000. He did not have small change either (or perhaps pretended not to have, I’m not sure, I choose to believe in the first) and returned us IDR 35,000. Our trip to the airport had costs us IDR 65,000 instead of the metered IDR 54,650.

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Bought these shawls that went from 3 for IDR 100,000 to 2 for IDR 50,000 to 3 for IDR 60,000.

Over the week, we had several instances of price haggling from getting onto a becak to purchasing a shawl. We were outside Candi Merdut when the street vendor offered her shawls at 3 for IDR 100,000. As I expressed interest, she went from 3 for IDR 100,000 to 2 for IDR 50,000 and then 3 for IDR 60,000. Ultimately, I got my purchase at 5 for IDR 100,000 as she didn’t have IDR 40,000 change.

Mode of Transport
After getting into Yogyakarta city, there are several main modes of going around. For several of the day trips, we chartered a cab. Other times, we either went on foot or caught a becek (trishaw). Below is a guide of the prices we paid.

Becek
Took a becak from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Kraton (about 15 mins ride) = IDR 20,000

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The quoted price for a becek was IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10 for 2 paxs). Its rather affordable and we didn’t have the heart to bargain it down further.

Chartered Cabs
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to catch Borobudur sunrise from 4am to 3pm = IDR 350,000
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Jomblang Cave from 7.30am to 3pm = IDR 500,000
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Parangritis beach from 4.30pm to 9.30pm = IDR 200,000
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Prambanan Temples from 2pm to 10pm = IDR 150,000
Cab from Airport to Whiz hotel at Malioboro area = IDR 50,000 (negotiated down from IDR 100,000)
Cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Airport
Actual metered costs = IDR 54,650
Paid = IDR 65,000 as we did not have smaller bills. (Do ensure that you have some smaller bills even until you have arrived at the airport for departure.)

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Called up the owner of Jomblang Cave directly and he arranged for this cab to come pick us up. Very costly at IDR 500,000.

As you can see, the costs for the chartered cab to Jomblang cave was the most expensive, as firstly, not many drivers know the way there and secondly, the last 300m to the cave was very very very bumpy which needed a 4-wheel drive to get through. Although it was a mere 15 minutes drive on that very bumpy stretch, it felt like forever with your guts spilling out from your throat with every bump. For this day trip, we called up the owner of Jomblang Cave directly (Mr Cahyo Alkantana +62 81111 7010), and he arranged for a driver to come pick us up at IDR 500,000. I reckon you could find your own driver at a lower cost if he is familiar with the roads and knows his way there.

Accommodation
We did a 5 nights stay at Whiz Hotel which was located at the Malioboro area. It wasn’t exactly right smack on Malioboro street but a side road adjacent to it. To me, I think it is an excellent location as it is within 1 minute of walking distance to all the food and shopping amenities but yet not as crowded and as noisy on the Malioboro street. The street that we stayed on is known as Jl. Dagen and Whiz Hotel is the first hotel on this stretch after a right / left turn from Malioboro street. Malioboro street is an equivalent to Singapore’s Orchard Road with lots of shopping and eateries etc.

Whiz Hotel

Love this hotel for its price and location. Highly recommended!

At about SG$25 per pax, per night for a twin room, not only is it affordable, it is also clean and modernly furnished. Although it is a tad small, I’ll still give my two thumbs up for its price, location, cleanliness and convenience. A hotel that I’ll highly recommend.

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Costs SG$25 per pax, per night – its a two thumbs up!

Local Delights 
I’m no foodie but the below is an account of the local food and eateries which we tried.

Lunch at Gudeg Yu Djum: IDR 70,000 (SG$7.40)
This eatery was highly recommended by the staffs at our hotel and we decided to give it a try since it was nearby.

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Was starving when we landed and thankfully the first meal at Yogyakarta was this delicious Gudeg Yu Djum’s, Gudeg with chicken and beef rind on rice.

We ordered the signature dish, Gudeg with chicken and beef rind on rice. Gudeg means jackfruit in sweet curry, and as such, it was rather aromatic and sweet on the taste buds.

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One set of Gudeg with chicken and beef rind on rice costs IDR 30,000 (SG$3.20) and a bottle of Teh Botol at IDR 5,000 (SG$0.50).

Dinner at Roadside stalls: IDR 10,000 (SG$1.05) + IDR 146,000 (SG$15.40)
We strolled along the streets and came to some makeshift stalls. Curiosity got the better of us and we decided to have a shot at these local stalls. We ordered the dishes without knowing what they were and how much they costs, as our conversations were only limited to ‘ayam'(chicken), ‘ikan'(fish), ‘lembu'(beef), ‘satu'(one), ‘dua'(two), ‘tiga'(three), ‘goreng'(fried), ‘pengkan'(bbq) etc. Haahaa… But well, we survived!

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It was quite an experience for us eating by the roadside, sitting on the mats. Our first order was a simple ‘Cai Fan'(Dishes ontop of the rice) costing IDR 10,000 (SG$1.05).

Still feeling greedy, we got to another roadside stall and ordered ‘Zi Char’ (Dishes prepared upon order).

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We had an oily deep-fried fish, prawns, stir-fried kangkung and side salad totalling IDR 146,000. The deep-dried fish costs IDR 65,000 and it was quite yumzz and fresh. The prawns on the other hand fared quite badly as they were tiny and didn’t tasted fresh.

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Dinner at Dafter Restaurant: IDR 59,400 (SG$6.30)
We ended up at Dafter restaurant for one of our dinners. It was another ‘sit-on-the-floor’ dining and my travel pal was almost concussed from the contortionisms.

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My poor travel pal nearly got cemented on the floor with leg cramps  : X

We decided not to have another yoga session and moved to a table seating instead.

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We ordered Dafter restaurant’s specialty, Ayam Rica Rica which was fiery and spicy but a little too tough. There were five different types of sambal and each costs IDR 2,000 (The five saucers in the middle of the picture).

We tried a Wedhang Uwuh, which is a hot Javanese drink made of cloves, nutmeg, ginger and palm sugar. It was hot and spicy at the same time. The total cost for this dinner came to IDR 59,400 (SG$6.30). It was really cheap considering it was a shared dinner amongst both of us.

Dinner at Boko Resto: IDR 138,000 (SG$14.60)
Our initial plans were to visit Prambanan temples and then shoot sunset from Ratu Boko. Alas, we ran late at the Prambanan temples and had to forgo the sunset shoot. It was such a shame. However, since we were already at Ratu Boko, we decided to make the best out of it and settled for a dinner at Boko Resto (a restaurant at Ratu Boko hilltop) before hopping back to watch the Ramayana Ballet performance.

The dinner at Boko Resto was nothing extraordinary but the view that came with it was breath-taking. It had not been one of our best days and a view like this was soothing balm for the nerves.

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The food was well…. nothing to rave about… but the view beside me was awesome!

Our dinner came to IDR 138,000 including a packed meal for our driver costing IDR 30,000. It was still a relatively reasonable and affordable meal considering the absolutely gorgeous view that we had.

Hotel Dafam Fortuna rooftop bar and resto
Long Island Tea: IDR 70,000 (SG$7.40)
Inspiration Cocktail: IDR 80,000 (SG$8.40)
Buffet Dinner: IDR 62,000 each (SG$6.50)
Total: IDR 331,500 (SG$35.00)
Hotel Dafam Fortuna is situated along Jl. Dagen, about a 5 minutes walk from our accommodation, Whiz Hotel. From afar, the rooftop looks ‘happening’ with glittering lights and buzz. We decided to go check it out and what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be.

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Cheers to a great trip and Happy Valentine’s Day, my travel pal…! May God grant you, your dreams of finding someone lovely soon, so that you can Celebrate Life with that person and no need to be tormented by me for future trips. Heh heh hehh… 🙂

We visited on a Valentine’s Day night and they were having a Valentine’s Day special performance with buffet dinner at IDR 62,000 per pax (SG$6.50). (The usual buffet dinners on Saturdays costs IDR 60,000). The Valentine’s Day buffet dinner comprises of a variety of fishes, shells, warm items such as spaghetti and soup etc. What caught our attention was the free-flow of fishes cooked in any rendition; deep-fried, barbeque or tom yum. If you had remembered (from one of my earlier dinners), a deep-fried fish at the roadside street stall costs IDR 65,000. Here, we could have as many as we wanted at only IDR 62,000…!!

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Wooo… Look at the number of fishes on display…!! Bet the staffs didn’t expect that these two gluttons would gobble up half of the stock they had there…!! Wahahaha…. : D

And yes, as you could have guessed, we lost no time in sitting ourselves down and ‘preping’ our tummies for the feast. Would you like to make a guess how many fishes we had by the end of the buffet? 2, 3, 5, 8, 10… Go on… It was a whopping 13 fishes in two hours! We tried all three renditions on the different variety of fishes. And if you think we only had one bite on each fish, nope, that was not true. We finished up the entire fish for all 13 fishes. By the end of the meal, we could feel fins growing out from our limbs and had this urge to jump into the pool and start swimming around. Haahaa…. 🙂

Dessert at roadside stall
Kuehs: IDR 8,000 (SG$0.84)
Not only did we try the local delicacies, we even laid our hands on some of the local desserts.

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This seller was so cheerful and friendly that we couldn’t resist to stop and make a purchase from him.

We passed by this ‘kueh’ stall and the seller was so cheerful and friendly that we decided to get some ‘kuehs’ from him. Not knowing what they were, we ordered one of each item and the total came up to IDR 8,000 (SG$0.84).

The local putu (bamboo steamed rice cakes) costs IDR 1,000. Lumpia (fried popiah) costs IDR 3,500. Cenil (glutinous gummy with coconut flakes) costs IDR 250. Kelepon (known commonly to us as ondeh ondeh in Singapore) costs IDR 500. Onde Onde (Fried Sesame Balls) costs IDR 2,000. Now, that got us a bit confused right…?! Haahaa…. Yes, because their kelepon is actually our ondeh ondeh and their ondeh ondeh is actually our fried sesame balls. Hence, its Same Same but Different.

Ronde: IDR 7,000 (SG$0.70)

Every night, we will stroll along Malioboro street and I was tempted to get a bowl of Ronde. However, every night we got ourselves so stuffed up that there was no more room for desserts. One fine night, we decided to go easy on our dinner and make room for a bowl of Ronde since it exuded such a killer ginger aroma.

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This Ronde had a killer ginger aroma. Finally got to try it after a few nights of temptation.

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Ronde; Like our Tang Yuan in ginger soup, but Jogja version includes jelly, bread and peanuts.

Ronde tasted very much like our local Tang Yuan in ginger soup, but the Jogja version includes jelly, bread and roasted peanuts to the soup, giving it a crunchy bite.

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Shopping
Shopping has never been on our agenda, especially for a ‘cultural-themed destination’ like Yogyakarta. However, we stumbled upon some great finds like some of the items below. Remember to bring some extra bucks for you’ll never know what treasures you may just chance upon.
Some of the items that were a steal :
5 Scarves = IDR 100,000 (SG$2.10 each)
Men’s Batik Shirt = IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10 each)
Ladies Batik Skirt = IDR 30,000 (SG$3.10 each)
‘Couple’ T-Shirts = IDR 30,000 each (SG$3.10 each)

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Love this couple Tee. So cute. Only costs IDR 30,000 (SG$3.10) per piece 🙂 Too bad I don’t have anyone to buy for or wear with… Sighh…. 😦

Magnum

The price range for a Magnum went from IDR 12,000 (SG$1.25) to IDR 15,000 (SG$1.60). For Magnum fans like myself, you’ll probably have your eyes popped out cos’ a Magnum in Singapore costs anything from SG$4 to SG$4.50. And in Yogyakarta, each Magnum went for SG$1.60 or less!

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OMG… Magnum at IDR 13,000 (SG$1.40). Please teach me how to resist ?! Haahaa… : /

We did a “stock-up” of Magnums – not in any of the fridges but in our tummies. We had an average of two Magnums each day and still feel that we didn’t have enough. Haahaahaa…. 🙂

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Attractions
As there were quite a number of attractions at Yogyakarta, I decided to split up the blog post and cover the different attractions in the next blog post instead. Do keep a lookout for it.

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A Birthday Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar

Back in 2011, I took a cab to Changi beach and shot a sunrise on my birthday. Ever since then, I will try to shoot a sunrise on my birthday to remind myself of the blessings I have had, and to rejoice in the days ahead.

In 2012, I flew to Thailand and caught a sunrise on a sunflower field in Lopburi. In 2013, I trained for 6 months and scaled the 4095.2m Mount Kinabalu, risking my dear life to catch a glimpse of the rising sun. Last year in 2014, I battled the cold winds and meandered through the thick, sandy paths in the dark on an e-bike to catch a shot of the rising sun at Bagan, Myanmar. This blog post details of my account back on that wondrous day.

3 Dec 2014, Wednesday

Unlike the previous years where I struggled to get a shot of the rising sun on my own, I had company this time round! My very sweet friend / travel pal / nanny / chauffeur / doctor / financial controller had very kindly agreed to join me on my virgin trip to Myanmar. After some planning and discussions, my birthday sunrise (as I named it) would coincide with one of the days in Bagan instead of my initial plans to catch it from a bedside window on Inle Lake.

We arrived Bagan on 2 Dec 2014, Tuesday, 8pm and rented an e-bike from a stall near our accommodation. By 5am on 3 December morning, we were up and on our way to Thisa Wadi Pagoda for a sunrise shot.

Upon arriving at the pagoda, we had to remove our footwear (Ahhh… please do not remind me how much I hated going around barefooted) and up, we went on the steps. At the top of the pagoda, we set up our tripods and waited, and waited, and waited, out in the cold, dark, windy morning before the break of dawn.

Just as we thought the dawn has broken, the sun rose from behind the hills, blanketed by a shroud of mist. In less than 5 minutes, it went from less than-a-fraction of a yolk to a full, burning egg yolk. It was simply breath-taking, awesome and a lack for better word – Amazing!

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Picture shot at 6.11am

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Picture shot at 6.13am.

Just as quickly as the sun came, as quickly as it left.

Below’s a wacky poem which I came up with for the morning sunrise. Haahaaa… 🙂

Early early we rose for the dawn,
Off we go on our E-bike with headlights on.
Up and up the sunrays flaunt,
One by one, everyone else is gone.
Two Ah Xiao’s suddenly went ding dong,
For all you know, tomorrow, a fashion star is born…
(“Ah Xiao” is a Singaporean (Hokkien) term meaning loony peeps and “Ding Dong” meaning crazy)

And thereafter, when everyone else was gone, we did what we loved best!

A friend once described both of us as, “Put these two together with cameras and they are like kids in a candy store” and there is no doubt about that! We were shrilling over how and where to pose as if we were really super models. And the best part was that, both of us were neither the most stunning, flawless subjects, but yet, we brought out the best in each other. And that is the best part of having a crazy travel pal.

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My Birthday – hence, the dressed up for the ‘fashion-shoot’! Haahaa… : D

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Man-Hunt of the Year

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This is one of my favorite pics! Simply loved the context of this pic with the high ceiling, lighting and shadow. Shot at Dhamma-Yan-Gyi Temple.

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This is another pic which I loved. The juxtaposition of a small subject in a wide and large space. Converted it to black and white and gave it a dash of colour on my dress. Shot at Dhamma-Yan-Gyi Temple.

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My photo pal, travel buddy, stylist, nanny, chauffeur, doctor, financial controller, all rolled in one. What more can I ask for…

Night came and we chanced upon this eatery. Not too long after we sat down, we bumped into Nick (again!) for the third time. We were on the same flight from Inle to Bagan and bumped into him at Thisa Wadi Pagoda during the morning sunrise and then here again at dinner. It was too much of a coincidence. Maybe he was stalking me! Wahahaa… Jes kidding! I wished! 🙂

We invited him to join us for dinner. Upon realising that it was my Birthday, he sang me a Birthday song in Ming Nan language (Taiwanese Hokkien). Awww… How sweet of him.

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Bumped into Nick once again (for the third time), and invited him to join us for dinner.

We decided to proceed to a cafe to chill. But as we couldn’t locate a nice and conducive one, we bought some drinks and headed back to our accommodation for some quiet time.

Quietly and sneakingly, Nick had bought a cake (a swissroll) to celebrate my birthday. I was really taken aback and touched as we had barely known each other. Every other year, I would be celebrating my Birthday (actual day) alone. This time round, not only did I have my best friend with me which was already such a bonus, I had such a shweet surprise from a new-found friend too. It was a day that will bring back many beautiful, lovely, memories for a long time to come.

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Thank you for the lovely Bday cake, Nick and also a big hug to my bestest friend for the shweet dinner and drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pengerang – Same Old Place, Brand New Route

Date of Trip : 28 June 2014, Saturday to 29 June 2014, Sunday

1 night Accommodation at Let Seng Hotel (Sungai Renggit) : RM 60 triple-share room
(would have costs RM 50 for a twin room, but they had ran out of twin rooms.)

Long distance cycling in Pengerang has become almost like a ‘weekend retreat’ for Darren and myself, popping over to Sg Renggit whenever we ‘feel like it’. Although it has been a good six months since our last trip there (due to my poor friend’s unfortunate arm injury at Batam a couple of months back), nothing much has changed ~ we were still very much looking forward to the cycling expeditions! We simply couldn’t wait to devour the lobsters and to savour the nature on our route.

This time round, we met up at 9am at the Changi Ferry Terminal, but soon realized it was a tad too late. We only managed to get onto a boat at 11.40am and arrived Sg Renggit at 1pm.

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Why am I headed to? *Confused*…

Whilst waiting at the ferry terminal, two ladies came up from behind and asked, “Are you guyz bloggers?” We were in for a surprise and muttered a sheepish “Errr… Yaa..”. “Ohh.. We read your blog posts on Pengerang and we are heading there today!” Woww… That really came as quite a surprise for us to meet someone who had read our blog posts and were inspired to go on the same journey.

As we continued chatting, Poonam and Jacintha (pic as below) shared with us that they had printed out the Pengerang map that Darren had put up on his blog, took notes, brought along their own bikes and helmets and were going to cycle from Tanjung Pengelih to Sg Renggit town, stop for lunch at Straits View Restaurant (as per our last recommended) and then head on to Desaru for the night. Boy, that was quite a distance that they’ll be covering and no mean feat for a first-timer!

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These two pretty ladies, Poonam (on my left) and Jacintha (on Darren’s right) came up and asked if we were bloggers. They had read our earlier blog posts and were going on their maiden long distance cycling trip in Pengerang. Good job ladies, keep it up…!!

Tanjung Pengilih (the jetty that we will be arriving at) to Sg Renggit town was about 18km (about 2.5 hours on our leisure cycling mode). Sg Renggit town to Desaru was 30km with about 10km of ‘killer stretch’ going up and down never-ending slopes. It usually takes us about 4 hours to cover this distance. We were really glad they took on the challenge and did the entire route. Good job guyz, we’re really proud of you! If you happen to see this blog post, please give us a shout-out and share with us your amazing experience. The two gals and their guy friend left on an earlier boat whilst we got on an 11.40am boat and arrived Tanjung Pengelih at about 1pm.

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The sleepy heads on our boat… Hahaa… It usually gets quite drowsy with the heat and warmth on the 1 hour+ boat ride.

We got into Sg Renggit town close to 1.30pm and popped over to Straits View Restaurant. One of the staffs recognised us immediately and ushered us to a table. Her son was surfing the net one of the days and came across our blogs and showed it to her. Although our pictures were not prominent, she could remember us at an instant. We were really heartened.

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This time round, we ordered a salty yolk lobster 550gm (RM 88), a Ginger Wine Egg Soup ~ which we loved the previous time round (RM 6), a curry brinjal (RM 10) and a Xiao Bai Cai (RM 8). The salty yolk lobsters came in this very apt shell-serving-plate. It was quite yummzz and we almost licked up the entire plate of the sauce. The staffs could even re-use it without anyone knowing!! Hahaa… 🙂

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The ginger wine egg soup tasted just as good as we had six months ago. I love the xiao bai cai best of all. The cooking time for the dish was just perfect and that it remained crispy and juicy upon the big ‘umm’. Darren loved the curry brinjal for its strong fragrance and texture although it reminded me very much of curry Twistees.

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Salty Yolk Lobsters 550gm RM88, Curry Brinjal RM 10, Xiao Bai Cai RM 8, Ginger Wine Egg Soup RM 6, 1 rice RM 1. Total bill : RM113.

By the time we ended our meal, it was close to 2.30pm. It was time to hunt for our accommodation… We had tried quite a number of accommodations in Sungei Renggit but have yet to try Let Seng as it was always “Fully Booked”. This time round, we were lucky. We managed to get a triple room at RM 60 (all their RM 50 twin rooms were fully taken up). The room was quite huge with a Queen and a Single bed. Although the mattresses and pillows were not comfy and the toilet reek of a weird smell, the wifi-connection was the strongest amongst the so many hotels that we had stayed at, at Sungei Renggit town.

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Had tried so many accommodations, finally got to try Let Seng Hotel.

After dropping off our stuffs, renting a bike from Mr Soon and slurping down an ice-kacang and a chendol, it was 3.30pm and we were all ready to set off for our cycling expedition. Gosh… This has got to be the latest time we set off…

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Showing off my new cap-helmet and having an ice kacang and a chendol to cool off before we even started !! Hahaa… 🙂

Trying a different route this time, we ventured from Sungai Renggit town to Tanjung Pengelih jetty. The journey was 18km one way. The initial segment of the route was heavy traffic with huge construction vehicles, treating our faces to dust facials as they went past. The road shoulders were wide enough but most parts of the road shoulders were lined with sand and gravel making it slippery and prone to falls. I had a couple of near misses and could now fully understood how my cycling buddy fell the last time round.

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Most parts of the road shoulders were lined with sand and gravel making it slippery and prone to falls. Really gotta be extra careful when cycling on this route.

We passed by a Kuan Yin temple. It was a small temple but the figurines were very well done and intricate. There was even a flagpole at the front of the temple.

Kuan Yin Temple which we passed by.

We took a left turn on one of the roads and came to a beachside temple and this short jetty. There was nothing else on this jetty and … … … <there we go again!>… … Sometimes, I really take my hats off us. We have to be the most crazy peeps for we can be camwhoring on literally anything and everything; drains, urinals, escalators, walls, construction sites and even this very nondescript jetty.

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We spent almost an eternity cam-whoring at this jetty and never did get to Tanjung Pengelih jetty.  We started our journey back to Sungai Renggit town.

The warm rays of the setting sun started beating down on us as we cycled past a mosque and a carpet of a lalang field. The smell of the rustic villages, the vast fields of nature and the amazing creations of Mother Nature reminded us that it is scenes like these, that have been spurring us to continue coming back here, time again and again… experiencing a new adventure each time.

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Apart from our love for nature, our tummies couldn’t hide our gluttony for the lobster meals that we yearn for.

Jade Garden which was once located at the restaurant stretch had moved and we decided to go check it out. It has grown from a seafood restaurant to a ‘resort’ overnight, owning a huge piece of land at the fringe of the town. The 4-storey building comprises of a hotel at the upper levels and huge ballrooms on the first level. The ballroom could accommodate more than a hundred tables. Venturing around the grounds, we reckon they were preparing several lobster or prawning ponds.

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Restaurant on first level and hotel on upper levels. Gotta try this accommodation the next time round. Hopefully, its open by then…

Jade Garden Setting

Banquet setting with huge tanks of live lobsters at the new Jade Garden Resort.

Back at our dining table, the menu itself was quite a heavyweight one too. It is made from thick solid cardboard as heavy as a lobster!

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Really ‘heavy weight’ menu! And they even have desserts now too…

Without us knowing, we placed our order, a Marmite Lobster (RM 86), a Cabbage (RM 10), a Fish Maw soup (RM 25) and a Deep Fried Baby squid (RM 18) with the lady boss of the resort. Only upon my comment on the menu, did she give the slip that she was the boss of the resort. Haha… 🙂
The Marmite Lobsters were HUGE but a little too sweet for a Marmite rendition. The fish maw soup and cabbage were quite tasty. The deep fried baby squid got cold after our incessant shooting. We ordered “small” servings for the dishes, but the “small” servings felt very much like a “medium” serving that could serve about 4 paxs. It got a bit too much for both of us and we eventually had to ‘tar pao’ (pack) the Deep Fried Baby Squid and have it for supper (which we unfortunately did not consume…). Our bill came to RM 164. It was relatively quite cheap considering the huge, small portions that we had.

Jade Garden

Looking at the scale and progress of this “Jade Garden Resort”, this may very well turn into the next ‘big thing’ at Sg Renggit / Pengerang, serving both locals and out-of-towners with banquet style restaurants, high rise hotels, resort facilities etc. We are excited and looking forward to its progress and can’t wait to make our next trip there.

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S̄wạs̄dī xīk khrậng Krabi ~ Hello Again, Krabi (Day 3 : 11 Jan 2014) ~ Wat Kaew Temple, Chao Fah Krabi Weekend Night Market

11 January 2014, Saturday

After a good massage on the previous night, we were totally konked out till a good 10am the next morning.

By the time we got our butts moving, it was almost 12 noon!

But well, this was our version of a real holiday ~ to sleep in, rest and relax and take it easy.

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Sleep In, Rest and Relax and Take it Easy … …

After contemplating some options, we decided to visit Wat Kaew Temple in Krabi town.

We stole a glimpse of it on our first night, but didn’t really get round to explore it.

Getting across the road opposite our hotel, we took a Song Theaw (costing THB 60 per pax) to Krabi town.

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Crossed the road to the beach side and took a Song Theaw costing THB 60 per pax to Krabi town.

Wat Kaew Temple also commonly known as the “White Temple”, was prominently situated in the middle of the town.

It looked very much like a white tiered wedding cake.

Located on a gradual hill, the entrance is lined with naga sculptures and faces one of the town main streets.

It is almost difficult to miss this temple.

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Would not miss this white Wat Kaew Temple situated near the main roads in Krabi town.

Although it is one of the largest temples in Krabi, it is not as popular or commercialized as Wat Tham Suea (The Tiger Cave).

And in fact, it is very much the opposite of Wat Tham Suea. This temple was very quiet and serene and there were little locals much less tourists.

Strolling up some (100) steps, we came to the ‘main hall’ of the temple.

The interior was bright with light rays entering through the windows.

We were greeted by the golden Buddha in the middle of the blue room with red ceiling.

It was a first time for me seeing such strong vibrant colours in a temple.

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Such exquisite interior of the temple

Outside the ‘main hall’ were two pavillions, one on each side. We didn’t know what the pavillions were for, but they certainly made good meditation grounds.

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One pavilion on each side of the main hall

There were lots of potted plants by the temple and when I looked closer, there was an array of bugs, insects, butterflies, damselflies etc. Oh my, that was my buffet for the day!

Although I didn’t have my macro lens with me, I stay rooted at the potted plants trying to capture those creepy crawlies going about their daily activities.

I loved the interaction between the different species. It was emotionally therapeutic to find so many species in one spot! Nature sure was amazing.

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Love the array of species to macro here…!! Shot using Samsung S4.

It was not a very huge temple, but Darren and I spent close to 2 hours here shooting, whilst May and Chee Hong had a 1.5 hours ‘meditation session’ in the pavillion. Haahaa… 🙂

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Meditation in progress… Do Not Disturb…

Our growling tummies got us scampering out of the temple, settling for a late lunch at a roadside stall and some desserts at Swensens just across the temple.

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Swensens…!! yUmmzz… : D

Just as we thought we were rounding up our day, we chanced upon the Chao Fah Krabi Weekend Night Market behind the mall.

Now, this was a ‘genuine’ night market as compared to the one we saw on our first night.

It was later then we found out that this night market only operated on Fridays and weekends, from 5pm to 10pm.

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Chao Fah Krabi Weekend Night Market. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, 5pm to 10pm.

There were food stalls selling local delicacies, cocktails in bamboos, yellow bean paste desserts in the shape of fruits and animals (Kao Noom Look Choup), irresistibly delicious looking cakes, adorable sushi bits and many others.

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Look at all the drooling yummies…

The other stretch of the night market sold souvenirs ranging from Tee-Shirts, customised name pouches, handicrafts, art sculptures etc.

There were also street performances such as a musical band and a traditional Thai dance.

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Arts, Cultural, Shopping all in one…

We ate, we shopped, we bought, we watched.

The market was nothing but full of vibrancy and colours.

It was perhaps the most delightful activity in this sleepy little Krabi town.

As we didn’t want to end up taking the last Song Theaw back (as like the first night), we called it a day by 7.30pm, heading back to our accommodation in Ao Nang area.

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Bought this colourful worm at THB 20 from a handicapped old man, in memory of a ‘千脚虫’ project that we did some years back… : )

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S̄wạs̄dī xīk khrậng Krabi ~ Hello Again, Krabi (Day 2 : 10 Jan 2014) ~ Phi Phi Island Hopping

10 January 2014, Friday

Activity : Phi-Phi Islands Hopping (Day Trip)
Cost : THB 950
Islands Visited : Bamboo Island, Lohsamah Bay (snorkelling), Hin Klang (snorkelling), Phi Phi Don Island (Lunch), Viking Cave, Pileh Bay, Monkey Bay, Maya Bay (‘The Beach’ filming location)
After an insane Day 1, this has been the day that I have been looking forward to since I confirmed the trip.
2 years back, my sis and I had signed up for a Phi Phi island-hopping session, but it didn’t materialize as it stormed heavily back then (in May, during the monsoon season).This time round, I was really excited and praying hard for gorgeous weather to bring us through. The Phi Phi islands day trip was one of the main reasons why I decided to visit Krabi once again.

 

Phi Phi Island Hopping

Phi Phi islands is made up of 6 islands. Located between Phuket and the western Straits of Malacca coast of the mainland, Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest and most populated island in the group. The other 5 islands in the group include Ko Phi Phi Lee, Ko Bida Nok, Ko Bida Noi, Koh Yung and Ko Mai Phai (Bamboo Island).

The islands became a hit overnight after Koh Phi Phi Lee (Maya Bay) was used as a backdrop in the year 2000 block buster, ‘The Beach’, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. The island is surrounded by sheer cliffs plunging into the ocean and a sea lake between the cliffs allowing water to enter. The stunt escalated tourism at a tremendous rate with hotels and businesses springing up overnight.

Phi Phi Island Hopping Package

There were tons and tons of travel agencies offering the Phi Phi islands packages. They ranged from THB 1000 to THB 1300 and offered pretty much the same; insurance, size of boat, lunch etc. What actually set them apart was the sincerity and disposition of the ‘seller’. Some were more cheerful than others, whilst some were more adamant. Basically, we ‘bought’ from any of them that came across as sincere and genuine.

Phi Phi Island Hopping, Here we come! Woohooooo… 🙂

The tour agency picked us up at 8.30am in the morning in a huge 40 seater bus. The bus was almost full when we got on board. We took up the last few seats and those that came up after us had to stand. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far a journey.

We were brought to a ‘holding area’ by the beach and separated into respective boats.

We arrived at the first island; Bamboo island at 10am and had 40 minutes here.

Despite that this was my third beach adventure in three consecutive months (Putri & Sepa Island in Nov 2013, Sapi Island in Dec 2013, Phi Phi Island in Jan 2014), I was mesmerized by the clear green waters and stunning blue skies.

We wasted no time in cam-whoring!

It was just too gorgeous NOT to.

We had a dip in the waters and before we knew it, it was time for us to hop off to the next location.

What a shame… I wished we had more time.

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One my favorite pics by far… : )

 

Bamboo Island Camwhoring Collage R1

Quick… Cam-whoring time. The pic on the left is hilarious where we posed as Teenage magazine cover models cos our apparels were of similar colours. I bought the rainbow dress the previous night without realising what my cam-whoring buddy was about to wear ! We had tons of fun and went all crazy… Hahahahhaa… : D

Next up were snorkelling sessions at Lohsamah Bay and Hin Klang.

May and I don on the life jackets before plunging into the waters.

This was the first time I went ‘unguided’ (after a horrible, unpleasant guided snorkelling session in Sapi Island, Kota Kinabalu.)

The life jacket was a saver since I wasn’t very much of a strong swimmer.

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“Kia-Si” – Better to don on the life jackets since I was not a very strong swimmer…. : p

Initially, I swam around the boat as I was too ‘kia-si’ (afraid of death) to venture too far off.

Darren came by and pulled me to one of the sites to have a look at the blue corals etc.

The underwater world was simply breath-taking. I have never seen such colours under the sea. It was such a shame that I did not have any underwater camera gears with me.

I was extremely thankful that he brought me to those sites, because if not, I would most probably not have been able to witness such spectrums.

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Darren used all his might to pull me to those awesome sites… A Big Thank You to him for opening my eyes to the beautiful underwater world.

After the two snorkelling workouts, we were more than famished.

Thankfully, it was time for lunch at Phi Phi Don Island.

It was a buffet line with rice, vegetables, soup and chicken wings (limited to 2 pieces per person!). Not that I was being petty, but for the amount that we paid for our island hopping package, how much more could a few chicken wings costs?! Every other warmer was replenished constantly except for the chicken wings warmer… : X

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Famished… Food…!!

After filling up our tummies, we strolled around the island.

There really was nothing much on this island apart from a small souvenir shop and the cafeteria that served us lunch.

We hopped onto the boat and off we continued on the island hopping.

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Thankfully the ropes didn’t give way… Phew… : D

We visited Viking Cave, Pileh Bay and Monkey Beach.Viking Cave is easily identified by the wooden structures at the entrance. The cave houses indefinite amount of bird’s nests. Due to the low structures, we could only watch from afar.

We did not even knew we had arrived at Piley Bay because Piley Bay was a seabed lavished with corals under our boat as we drove by.

We went past Monkey Beach very briskly.

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Viking Cave housed with Bird’s Nests

The last island that we hopped off was Maya Bay where ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo Dicaprio was filmed.It was a very small beach overcrowded with boats, tourists and swimmers.

It  has a very narrow shore-line but the sand on the shore was so soft, fine and powdery when we tread on it. It reminded me of the sand on Cottesloe Beach in Perth. It has been a long time since my toes savored on such fine sand.

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The infamous Maya Bay where ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo Dicaprio was filmed.

After getting some shots and visiting the bathroom, that was all the time we had at this last stop. It was the end of the island hopping.

What a shame… I felt that it was way too short. We didn’t have enough of cam-whoring, dipping into the waters not to even mention exploring the islands.

My favorite stops were Bamboo Island where we did most of our cam-whoring, the snorkelling spots which Darren brought me to and Maya Bay for the amazing sand.

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Last pit stop = Maya Bay. Ohhh… The island hopping was way too short… : O

 

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