After our two day trek through the Shan Highlands, Aris and I wanted to explore some more of this scenic and relatively untouched region of Myanmar. On our way back to Hsipaw, we had passed a small village which seemed very nice and interesting. Our plan was to make it back there, till having to figure out how to, and spend the night. Not sure how to exactly get there and not knowing if we could actually stay, we packed our bags, charged our camera batteries and set off for what would be one of the best experiences of my entire trip.
The days in Mandalay passed quickly and it was time to move on, to get out of the city and explore some more remote regions. I wanted to head Northwest to a small village named Hsipaw in the Shan Highlands. A few people I met on the way mentioned that the area offered some great trekking along scenic trails to touristically still unspoiled minority villages. It sounded better than trekking down at Kalaw, close to Inle Lake, which was already supposed to be well frequented by tourists. The only challenge was getting to Hsipaw. I decided to take the old train which was built by the English empire in order to secure their colonial control. Rated one of the world’s top train rides, I was up for a rocky adventure. Continue reading
Apart from KL not being my favorite place on this earth, I can generally take big cities for only a limited time before the desire of getting back to the outdoors takes over again. So after a few days in the big city it was about time for me to head back out there to find the next adventure. The plan was to first hit the Cameron Highlands, famous for its vast tea plantations and cool climate which should be a relief after humid Kuala Lumpur. After a few days in the highlands I wanted to go into Taman Negara National Park, home to the world’s oldest jungle being about 130 million years of age. As these brief descriptions already implicate, the experiences there would be two completely different ones with one being a test of my boundaries. Continue reading
After a great trip all the way from North to South Sulawesi, it was time for a location change. I had booked a ferry ride over to Flores which would take one whole day. I was a little late when I showed up at the booking office and was only able to get the expensive first class ticket. A little reluctant I payed up without knowing that this investment was actually a very good one. I arrived at the port and instantly realized why – there were thousands of people waiting to get onto the boat. It was chaos and anarchy with everyone hectically pushing to save a good spot on the ferry. I instead could relax and wait it out because I had my cabin booked. Thank god. Once we took off, the whole extent of the situation became evident. There were people lying and sitting everywhere. There was not even space left for walking along the aisles. The expensive ticket was worth every penny and I even got to know some locals also traveling in first class who were super nice. All in all a pleasant journey to the island of Flores. But I quickly forgot about those events because I had exciting plans. Diving in Komodo National Park and seeing the famous Komodo Dragons.
Again, I am late with the Picture of the Week. Too much going on, too less time and too less places with proper internet. Time to pick it up again. This was taken on the small island of Rinca in Komodo National Park. I did an excursion to hike and hopefully spot the dragons from Flores, just two hours by boat. Originally I wanted to go to Komodo Island itself but unreal prices for the boat and actually less chances of seeing the dragons made me decide to go to Rinca instead. And it was well worth it. We did a two hour hike across the island and all of sudden this bad boy of a Komodo dragon came down the path. Even our guides were a little nervous and kept highly alert when it was passing by. For me, it was exactly what I came to Rinca for and it wouldn’t be the last specimen we would encounter during our hike. More details about my stay in Flores and around Komodo will follow soon.
I enjoyed my stay in Tentena and was more than glad that I decided to stop there for two nights. However, it was a stopover on my way to the region of Tanah Toraja and it’s main city Rantepao. I heard great things about the area – strange rituals, funeral ceremonies and animal sacrifices, amazing traditional house scattered throughout the countryside and and an abundance of beautiful scenery all around. My expectations were high as I got into the car that I had chartered to get there. Supposedly the public bus would have taken forever so I decided to spend a little more and have the comfort of a fast and air-conditioned car. I arrived in Rantepao in the evening. My driver dropped me off t a very nice and cheap (a rare combination) guesthouse and I was lucky to get the last room available. Good start but what I didn’t know at that point was that things would not continue as smoothly as this. Continue reading
For Easter Saturday me and the guys got invited to join Emm, a fellow travel blogger from the Philippines (http://emmthepinaytrekker.wordpress.com), and her friends to climb Mt. Bulusan. 1565 meters high, it is the southernmost volcano in Luzon and one of the big landmarks of the Bicol Region, seen from almost anywhere. The volcano is one of the active ones in the Philippines with its last big eruption in February 2011.
With a climb promised to be more challenging than our assault on Mt. Pinatubo and some overnight camping, the trip sounded like another great adventure and we were glad to join.
When travelling you will experience a lot of great and memorable things. It is fun, exhilarating and adventurous most of the time. But another part of travelling which you can’t avoid are the odd disappointments and hitting rock bottom every once in a while. It’s not all gravy when travelling and those moments are just part of it. After our great adventure in the Philippino mountains, we got a fresh taste of just that.
We left Manila with the plan to climb Mount Pinatubo, the famous volcano which exploded in 1991 taking a good 300 meters off of the mount and covering big parts of the area in ashes and lahar. With a big and crystal clear crater lake at the top, this seemed like another great adventure for the three of us. However, it soon became clear that it would be anything but that.
After only half a day in Manila, I made my way up to Baguio, a fairly big town in the North of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. There I was supposed to meet up again with Dolf and Chris from Belgium whom I had traveled parts of Laos before. After an 8 hours bus ride I finally arrived and was greeted by the guys who had already arranged our accommodation. It was really nice to see both of them again and to know that some awesome adventures will await the three of us. However, Baguio was only the jump-off point to the Cordillera, the mountainous and remote north of the Philippines. After a few reunification beers, a hearty dinner and a good night of sleep, we took off to Sagada.
During my stay in Laos I heard a lot of good things about jungle trekking in the far east province of Mondulkiri in Cambodia. Since my last trek was rather mediocre, I wanted to give it another try and the plan was to cross the border, go to the Mekong town of Kratie and then continue into Mondulkiri. Besides an extended stay at the Lao – Cambodian border my plan worked out well and I arrived full of energy in the regional capital of Sen Monorom. The city is far from anything, very dusty and has a very special and rough charm to it. There is not so much to do besides the trekking so I started to ask around if there were groups going the next day. To my surprise there was no one going for a three day trek which I was looking for. Only one day tours and maybe a two day trek with another couple. It took me almost 2 days to come here and now this. What to do? I finally decided to get a guide for myself and head into the jungle right the next day.