Travelogue

Miri Country Music Fest 2017 – More Than Just Cowboys

Miri Country Music Fest 2017 – More Than Just Cowboys

Recently we were invited to the fourth annual Miri Country Music Festival (MCMF) which took place at Sarawak in Malaysia. It turned out to be lots of fun and here’s how our experience went…

Miri Country Music Festival 2017!

Tip

Don’t forget to bring along a raincoat/umbrella! You’re in a tropical country, the weather is as unpredictable as life. Or, you can just heck that and dance your troubles away in the rain!.

Interactive workshops by the bands

Sharing session by The Casual Ceilidh Band based in Brunei

There were a total of 6 workshops held by the bands over 2 days. The workshops ranged from tips on composing your own song to a fun line dance session. What we liked about the workshops was that they were mostly an intimate and close up session with the artiste(s).

Yup that’s me, flaunting my newly acquired line dancing skills!

During the 45 minute sharing session, the artistes will also share with us how they first got started in the music industry and their journey thus far. This personal touch definitely enhanced our experience when watching them perform later at night.

Delicious local delights and beautiful ethic crafts

Delicious piping hot Penang char kway teow anyone?

For those that have never been to this part of the world, you MUST try the local cuisine here. The food that you can get here is a nice sample of the cuisine that Malaysia has to offer! Penang char kway teow, homemade lapis (cake), bbq chicken wings, satay, just to name a few!

Yummy homemade local delights :p

You can also pick up some unique local souvenirs like these handmade bags and support the local economy!

Interesting activities for the children

Huge favourite among the kids!

This event is great for families too! If you’ve got children, bring them along and have a great family bonding time here at MCMF. The bouncy castle is one of the kids’ favourite, followed by the dancing cartoon mascots that appear periodically throughout the night.

Dare take up the Rodeo challenge? 😉

Performances by international and local bands

Heartfelt performance by Smith and the Saints

There were a total of 8 bands performing at MCMF, 3 international bands and the rest were local. One of our favourites was definitely Shane Smith and the Saints who flew in all the way from Texas! Their performance was highly entertaining and energetic, and the crowd responded by dancing wildly at the front of the stage. Their songs were slightly more mainstream, kind of a mix between country and pop music.

Tip: Bring your own comfy chair for maximum comfort while you relax and enjoy the performances!

 

Amazingly talented local artiste, Russel Curtis from KL

James Thomson and the Strange Pilgrims, all the way from Australia!

James Thomson, singer and songwriter from Australia, was also invited to play at MCMF. His songs were full of soul and most were composed by himself. Very talented young chap!

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

 

Nothing can stop the crowd from having the time of their lives!

If you’ve missed this year’s MCMF, not to worry, you can look forward to MCMF 2018 which will be their 5th year anniversary as well! You can expect the event to be a whole lot bigger and even more exciting! 😀

Is It Worth it To Visit Chitwan National Park?

Is It Worth it To Visit Chitwan National Park?

Being wildlife enthusiasts, we were very excited when we found out about this National Park in Nepal. We read that it’s famous for their wildlife and beautiful landscape. So here’s how our experience went…

One of the most calming and beautiful sunsets we’ve ever seen.

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Sublime sunset view at the river in Chitwan National Park

Take a stroll down the river during the evening and enjoy the sublime view of the sunset against the river.

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Very pretty colours in the sky!

If you’re lucky like us, you can even spot a rhino near the river! It was really close to us, say around 50m away? We were all in a ready-to-run-anytime mode in case the rhino suddenly charges at us.

Safety tip: Never stand in front of a rhino, always stand behind it. As once you’re in front of it, it might end up charging towards you! But it can’t turn its head, so if you’re at the back, you should be safe! 😀

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Spotted a rhino on our first day in Chitwan!

Where else can you find elephants and rhinos strolling down the streets?

Only in Chitwan National Park. The elephants were on their way home after a long day of hard work (we don’t support elephant riding though, see below).

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Watch out for the humongous elephant poops all over the roads!

This rhino situation was really funny though. We were casually walking down the streets when suddenly people ahead of us started to warn us to step onto the sidewalk as a rhino was coming!

True enough, shortly after a rhino trudged along! It was hilarious to see the huge crowd that formed behind the rhino, each attempting to take their prize shot. Apparently this happens quite often though, poor rhino, he must be feeling so lost in this foreign urbanscape!

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Just a rhino trudging along the streets on a random day

A much cheaper alternative to the safari in Africa.

We know that it can’t be compared to the safari in Africa but for now we will make do. At least we get to see one of the big 5s of the Africa’s safari – the rhino! 😀 There are several activities that you can do, we did both the canoe and jeep safari.

40 min canoe ride to scare the shi* out of you

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Basically it’s a slow 40min boat ride that brings you really close to the sleepy and seemingly immobile crocodiles in the river. Sometimes we wonder whether are they even real, maybe they were planted here?

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If only we can be like a crocodile, eat and sleep the whole day.

Then you also get to enjoy the view of these majestic creatures, but it’s also very saddening at the same time when you see the way these animals are being mistreated.

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Please stop taking these elephant rides!

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Can you spot the cute woodpecker?!

5hrs jeep safari to spot wildlife

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Jeep safari in Chitwan National Park!

It was our first time going on such a jeep safari tour, so we weren’t sure what to expect. But honestly, 4-5 hours sitting in a bumpy jeep, moving at less than 20km/h while trying to spot wildlife, isn’t the most exciting thing actually. In fact after like 2 hours, we got a little sleepy. Maybe it was because there wasn’t thatttt much wildlife. We did see 2 rhinos, monkeys, wild boars, deer and some cute birds.

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Monkey spotted!

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Rhino cooling himself off

Part of the safari tour will also include a visit to the crocodile farm but it wasn’t a very pleasant experience though. The crocodile enclosures were not well maintained and there was moss growing everywhere! The toilet there was also……one of the worst we’ve been to. And trust us, we’ve been to really terrible toilets during our past backpacking trips!

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Baby crocodiles, barely less than few weeks old!

So, we really do love Chitwan, but one thing that we didn’t support was the elephant rides in the park.

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A very painful and heartbreaking sight 🙁

Each of these trainers/caretakers was holding a metal rod with a curved sharp end which he will then use to prod and hurt the elephant in order to get it to follow his bidding.

Some people say that the elephant skin is very thick and that’s precisely why these trainers hit really hard with their metal rod till it hurts the elephant! 🙁

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Jumping non-stop on the elephant to get it to “bathe” itself.

Tourists can pay a small fee to bathe with the elephants, which is essentially just the tourist sitting on the elephant and getting splashed by it.

Please, the elephant don’t even bathe that way normally. We saw this elephant at the other side of the river happily bathing on its own and he was just soaking himself in the water entirely, rolling from side to side.

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Elephants are super adorable!

Our verdict:

If you’ve gotten bored of the Himalayan view and have time to spare, why not! It was quite refreshing to soak ourselves in a jungle atmosphere after 2 weeks of being in the mountains. But don’t get your hopes too high to spot any of the rare animals like tiger. Our guide did say though that chances are higher during spring (Feb/March) when the grass is less dense and shorter. We were there during October (autumn) and the grass was really thick! It was harder to spot the wildlife actually.

Essential Information

Where we stayed in Chitwan National Park

Jungle Safari Lodge, S$57 for a triple room.
Location was very good, walking distance to the river where we spotted the rhino.
The breakfast here is awesome! We also did the above safari tours with them.

Don’t get mixed up, there’s another hotel named Jungle Safari Resort. We stayed at the “Lodge”, not “Resort”.

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Our accommodation at Chitwan National Park

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Our triple room at Jungle Safari Lodge.

How we got here to Chitwan National Park from Kathmandu

Take a bus from Kathmandu’s  to Sauhara, ticket costs 600rupees per pax. The bus journey took around 7 hours.

Tip: If you’re planning on taking a local bus from Kathmandu, do inform the hotel in advance as they will be able to pick you up from the bus terminal.

Have you been to Chitwan National Park before? Would you recommend others to visit this place? Share with us your view in the comments below! 🙂

6 Awesome Ways To Get The Most Out Of Nepal

6 Awesome Ways To Get The Most Out Of Nepal

We’re so glad that we finally get to visit Nepal and so impressed to see how this country has bounced back to where she is today after the tragedy that struck them in 2015.

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1. Explore the labyrinths of dusty Kathmandu

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It’s hard to tell that just 1 year ago, this city was hit by the earthquake which killed thousands. The people were as cheerful, living their lives as usual. Also a great place to stock up on your last minute essentials before you head off for your trek! It’s almost like a shopping paradise for outdoor lovers.

2. Enjoy wildlife sighting at Chitwan National Park

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Gorgeous sunset at Chitwan National Park

We’ve always wanted to visit the safari in Africa but it’s really costly and we’re still saving up for it! For now we’ll have to make do with the safari here in Nepal, which turned out really good! We saw plenty of wildlife ranging from crocodiles, rhinos, deer, birds, elephants and more! Check out our post for our full experience at Chitwan National Park!

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Please don’t ride these elephants, see blog post link above for more info

2. Scream your lungs out at the 3rd highest bungy in the world

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Rule number 1: never look down

This has gotta be one of the most exciting experiences ever for us! This bungy is the 3rd highest in the world; imaging jumping off this platform at 160m above the river! It was exhilrating! Daniel did the bungy and we both did the canyon swing together. The canyon swing was a different kind of scary but also very fun. The adrenaline rush after doing it was sky high.

For adventure lovers, you will love Nepal – check out our post on Nepal, The Ultimate Adventure Destination.

3. Push yourself to your limits and trek to Everest Base Camp

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Finally after 9 arduous days of trekking, we made it to EBC.

We really encourage everyone to attempt a multi-day trek at least once in their lives. The experience is vastly different from a short 2-3 days hike. The Himalayas is an excellent place for a multi-day hike and there’s a wide array of choices! Hiking for 2 weeks at a high altitude in sub zero temperatures is really not easy and mental strength is extremely important.

Check out our full experience on trekking to Everest Base Camp!

4. Witness the most beautiful sunrise at Nagarkot

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One of the mot beautiful sunrises that we’ve ever witnessed

For those who prefer travelling off the beaten path like us, do include Nagarkot in your itinerary! This place is sublime for watching sunset/sunrise! You will also get to enjoy the view of the entire range of the Himalayas here. Or if you prefer to do shorter treks, there are plenty of short treks here which still allow you to enjoy the full view of the Himalayan range.

Tip: for the best sunrise viewing spot, skip the viewing tower and instead take one of the exits earlier before reaching the tower. The tower was congested with too many people and it wasn’t the best place for a nice photo. Alternatively for a perfect view of the Himalayas, go for the 360 panorama trekking route instead.

5. Discover the hidden gems of Pokhara

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Enjoying our time together at Bejnas Lake where it’s less crowded

If you’re heading to Nepal, please put aside at least 3 days for Pokhara, it’s a must! We kind of prefer Pokhara to Kathmandu actually, maybe also because it’s less crowded and dusty here in Pokhara. There’s so much to explore in this beautiful city and you get to enjoy the view of the Himalayas from here! Usually people head to Pokhara as it’s the start point for their Anapurna trek, but even if you’re not trekking, there’s so many other fun things to do in Pokhara!

Tip: Take the local bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara and experience the REAL way of travelling in Nepal. Trust me, this bus ride will be one helluva experience 😉

6. Immerse yourself in the streets of Bhaktapur

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At Bhaktapur Durbar Square that was damaged quite badly by the earthquake

We visited Bhaktapur as we wanted to catch a bus to Nargakot. The atmosphere here was strangely unsettling and yet calming at the same time. The empty streets, dust-filled air, unfinished buildings and rambling sounds of construction trucks made this place quite unforgettable. Only shortfall is that there’s a hefty entrance fee of 1,500rupees. Would still recommend this place if you have time (and money) to spare!

Essential Information

Where we stayed at in Kathmandu:

Shree Tibet Family Guesthouse
$3-4/bed in a mixed dorm, shared bathroom
Excellent location, right in the middle of Thamel street. But it’s also very near the pubs and restaurants and it can get quite noisy at night till about 10pm.

How we got to Nepal from Singapore:

Malindo Air, $450/pax for return tickets (1 stopover at KL).

Tip: For cheaper flights, use Sky Scanner‘s price alert function to monitor the flight tickets and they will notify you when prices drop.

NEPAL-The Ultimate Adventure Destination

NEPAL-The Ultimate Adventure Destination

Seldom people will think of Nepal as a place for adventurers but we’re here to change that perception. Not only was it super exciting but also really affordable as compared to other countries!

Bungy & Canyon Swing

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3rd highest bungy (160m) in the world!

After learning that Nepal has one of the highest bungy in the world, Daniel was determined to give it a go. And it didn’t disappoint us, it was really super exciting! We also did the canyon swing together and the free fall was like WAHHHHH! The free fall time for the canyon swing was twice as long as compared to bungy!

Canyon swing at The Last Resort in Nepal

Who we booked with:
The Last Resort – a little pricey, but no choice as they’re the only tour operator in Kathmandu for Bungy

Cost:
245EUROS for 2 pax – We did the tandem swing package plus 1 pax bungy which included lunch and transport to and fro.

White Water Rafting

Best white water rafting experience ever!!

We’ve tried white water rafting before in New Zealand, but THIS, this wins hands down. It was absolutely thrilling and nerve wrecking from the start to the end! It was definitely a raging river with countless angry rapids! We were so close to being thrown off the raft several times! Thank god we were all young and nimble and made it out alive. Phew!

Who we booked with:
Can’t recall the agency name, but there are several tour agencies along Lakeside that can help you book your white rafting tour.

Cost:
They have 2 packages – half day (1.5 hours rafting time, 4,000rupees) and full day (3 hours rafting time, 4,500rupees). We only tried the half day package and it was definitely exciting, not so sure about the full day rafting.

Paragliding

Photo credits: http://nepalfemaleguide.com/

We didn’t have the time to give this a go, but look at the breathtaking view below! Quite an experience we can imagine to be able to paraglide that close to the Himalayas! We heard from some fellow travellers that Nepal is one of the best places to paraglide.

Ultra Light Flight

Photo credits: http://www.plantours.com.np/

Another opportunity to fly really closely to the mountain range would be to take the ultra light flight! It’s a very small aircraft which can only take 1 passenger. This activity is really costly though, around US$130 for a 15 minute flight? Hence we didn’t go for it D:

Multi-Day Trek In The Himalayas

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2 weeks trek to Everest Base Camp!

Definitely a must do if you’re heading to Nepal. Although 2 weeks might sound daunting, it’s actually a very manageable trek. You stay in comfortable lodges with hot water, proper warm cooked food, porters to carry your main bags, etc. You just need to take care of yourself and the agency will take care of everything else. Check out our post on what to expect when trekking to Everest Base Camp!

Who we booked with:
Mosaic Adventure – very reliable and trustworthy local agency. We also like that they specialise in organising small groups which was more flexible compared to large groups.

Cost:
1,500USD for 20 days, includes a 1 day city tour in kathmandu, all meals during the trek, 1 guide and 2 porters for the trek.

Canyoning

Photo credits: http://www.pokharacanyoning.com/

Due to time constraint, we gave this activity a miss. If we’re ever back here, we would definitely try this!

So adrenaline junkies, what are you waiting for! Book your tickets to Nepal NOWWW! 😀

7 Other Fun Things To Do In Pokhara Besides Trekking

7 Other Fun Things To Do In Pokhara Besides Trekking

If you’re planning on heading to Pokhara, do set aside some time to explore the rest of this beautiful city!

Most people only know about Pokhara as a starting point for the famous Annapurna Trek. But there are so many more facets of this precious city besides trekking! We were already doing the EBC trek and so we skipped the Annapurna trek in Pokhara. We would recommend spending at least 3 days in Pokhara. So here it goes!

1. Explore old Pokhara on a bike

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Tip: A head buff/scarf is a must in dusty Pokhara!

One of the best ways to explore this city is to rent a motorbike as it will take you to much further places as compared to riding a bicycle. While you’re on the bike, do take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Himalayas as the backdrop of this city. You won’t get to see this in Kathmandu!

Cost: 1,200rupees to rent 1 motorbike for the entire day. You do have to haggle a little with them though. 

2. Boating in the scenic Phewa Lake

Don’t forget your sunblock!

A great way to reach the Peace Stupa or the Tal Barahi Temple situated right in the middle of the lake. The Tal Barahi Temple is one of the most religious Hindu monument in Nepal.

Cost: 600rupees for a 1 way journey with a boatman to the Peace Stupa. It’ll be cheaper if you choose to row the boat on your own. 

3. Enjoy the views from the Peace Stupa

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At the Peace Stupa in Pokhara

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You can either choose to trek the long way (2-3 hours forest trek) to the Peace Stupa or like what we did, we took a boat to the bottom of the Peace Stupa and walked up the stairs that led to the stupa. It wasn’t that near also, took us around 1 hour walk up to the stupa. After we were done, we chose to trek back to the city. Much easier as it was mostly downslope and you get to enjoy the beautiful views along the way.

Cost: FOC 🙂

4. Come up close with bats at the Bat Cave

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Look up and admire the bats but don’t open your mouth!

We were pleasantly surprised to see this attraction filled with mostly local tourists. We were one of the few foreigners there. This activity turned out to be one of our favourites as it was so untouched and real. Actually, also a little dangerous as there was totally no safety check at all. It was quite a small cave actually, wouldn’t recommend it if you’re claustrophobic.

Tip: Bring along your own headlight if you have. If not, you can also borrow one from the staff but they will provide you with a huge heavy light which might be abit cumbersome while you’re clambering over the rocks inside the cave. 

Once you enter the cave, look up and you will be shocked to see a huge black patch of bats, just right above you! They were so near that it got a little scary! Don’t forget to close your mouth as you look up, wouldn’t want to know what guano tastes like :/

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The super narrow exit of the Bat Cave in Pokhara!

The exit of the cave was the most exhilarating and dangerous. Firstly, the rocks were quite slippery as it was damp inside the cave. So proper footwear is definitely a must, no slippery slippers! We had to literally use all 4 limbs to climb our way out of the cave!

 Cost: 110rupees/pax. To get here, we rode a motorbike here and simply followed our digital map. Not very sure if there are any public transport here. 

5. Feel the adrenaline rush of white water rafting

Most exciting white water rafting ever!!

It’s no wonder that Pokhara is given the title as the “Adventure Capital of Nepal“. If only we had more time and budget, we would have tried their paragliding (supposedly one of the best in the world), the ultralight aircraft and many more!

The white water rafting here is definitely one of the most exhilarating experiences we’ve ever experienced! The extreme rapids and near capsized moments were definitely heart stopping! To top that off, the water was icy cold and each time a huge splash hits us, we’ll all  be screaming because of the cold too!

Cost: 4,000rupees per pax for a half day rafting. There are 2 options; full day rafting (3 hrs) or half day rafting (1.5 hrs).

6. Enjoy the sunset at Sarangkot Viewpoint

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Enjoying the breathtaking views in Pokhara

This viewpoint is probably only accessible if you rent a motorbike. It’s a long way uphill and we wouldn’t recommend walking up or riding a bicycle. The view was absolutely stunning and we just stood there at the edge in awe of mother nature.

Cost: FOC 🙂

7. Escape from the crowd and chill at Bejnas Lake

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If you have time, do check out this Bejnas Lake in Pokhara!

If you’re already convinced to rent a motorbike, do check out Bejnas Lake which is a smaller lake than Phewa Lake, but a lot more scenic and less touristy.

Tip: For the best view of the lake, head to the Bejnas Information Centre (viewpoint) near Sundarindanda. There’s a 30pesos per pax to enter the centre.

Cost: 30rupees if you’re entering the Bejnas Information Centre

Essential Information

Where we stayed at in Pokhara:

Hotel Angel (along Lakeside) – Check for updated price here and book directly!
Cost: 300rupees per night for a bed in the mixed dormitory
Location was excellent, along the Lakeside where there are plenty of eateries and shops.
Owner was very friendly and helpful too!

How we got to Pokhara from Kathmandu:

We booked a bus ticket from our guesthouse in Kathmandu.
Cost: 800rupees (we got the standard tourist bus)
Duration: Around 7-8 hours (but it really depends on the road conditions)

Have you been to Pokhara before? Any activity that we missed out and should include in the list above? Do share with us in the comments below! 🙂

Ultimate Packing List For Everest Base Camp Trek

Ultimate Packing List For Everest Base Camp Trek

After much deliberation, we’ve finally decided on the below list of items to pack for a 2 weeks EBC trek.

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Our packing list for EBC trek

Clothes

  • 2 dri fit short sleeved shirts
  • 2 long sleeved thermal tops (1 for sleeping)
  • 2 thermal pants (1 for sleeping)
  • 2 trekking pants (honestly 1 would be enough, depends on your comfort level)
  • 2 sports bras (for woman, or guys with boobs)
  • Undergarment (disposables)
  • Fleece jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Outer waterproof windbreaker
  • 2 pairs of regular long socks (for daily trekking)
  • 1 pair of thicker long socks (for sleeping)

 

Accessories

  • Warm hat
  • Beanie
  • Sun cap
  • Head buff (recommend to bring 2 cos it’ll get really really dusty and you might wanna change them!)
  • Sunglasses with UV rays protection (don’t wana burn your eyeballs as you get 5000m closer to the sun)
  • Waterproof thick gloves

 

Electronic Gadgets

  • Mobile phone
  • Phone charger
  • Portable battery (We brought the slim lightweight 5,000mAh portable battery. Should have brought a larger capacity battery instead, well because electricity up there is charged per charge)
  • Camera + extra batteries (Batteries life shorten in the cold)
  • Tripod (Optional)

 

Toiletries

  • *Bring minimal as you will only get to shower once or twice throughout the entire trek!*
    Shampoo
  • Dry shampoo (More suitable for those with oilier scalp. I didn’t use it in the end)
  • Body soap
  • Sunblock (ideally spray type, minimally SPF 50 and above)
  • Facial wash
  • Moisturiser (Both for face & body. Your skin gets really dry in the Himalayas)
  • Tooth paste
  • Tooth brush
  • Foot powder
  • Small microfibre towel
  • Lunette cup
  • Lip balm (best with SPF protection)

 

Gear

  • -20 degree celcius sleeping bag (provided by the agency)
  • Sleeping bag liner (optional, if you feel uncomfortable using the communal sleeping bag. We used the liner for the first 3 days only. After that we gave up on using it, too troublesome. Also cos we were already filthy, so…doesn’t make a difference sleeping in the sleeping bag directly)
  • Trekking shoes (ideally high/mid cut and waterproof as there are quite a few river crossing)
  • Trekking poles (bought ours from Thamel street in Kathmandu for $8.50/pair)
  • Headlight (more for navigating around at night in your teahouse or if you’re heading out to admire the starry night)
  • Swiss Army Knife (for any other emergencies!)

Miscellaneous

  • Passport
  • Thermal flask (super useful especially at sub zero temperatures at higher altitudes! We usually like drinking hot water at night before we sleep and first thing in the morning, keep our insides warm!)
  • Slippers (useful for walking around the tea houses and to the toilet. Nice to give your feet a break from the trekking shoes)
  • Medication (Ibuprofen/Panadol, flu, diarrohea, nauseous pills, Diamox (altitude sickness), lozenges, handiplast, and other usual medication that you take)
  • Water purification tablets (our agency were pro-environment and preferred us to not use plastic bottles)
    Playing cards
  • Toilet paper! (Most of the teahouses that we stayed at had no toilet paper)
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Snacks and chocs! (vacuum packed bakkwa, fun sized snicker bars, assortment of nuts worked for us!)

Things that we did not pack but wished we did:

Large portable battery – You can still charge your gadgets at the tea houses but it gets more expensive as you ascend higher! Average cost around $3-5 per full battery charge. Would recommend at least 10,000 to 20,000 mAh size batteries!

Sun cap – I thought that a warm hat and a beanie were already too much, hence omitting the sun cap from my bag. Thankfully Rachel had a spare to lend me! You will definitely need this while trekking during the day time, the skies are almost void of clouds in Nepal and you don’t wanna end up getting burnt like a yak!

Sufficient sunblock (preferably spray type) – I did bring sunblock, but only those travel sized sunblock. Ideally to bring the spray type of sunblock as your hands will start to get really filthy after 2 weeks of not showering. Dislike the idea of using our dirty hands to apply sunblock all over our face, but oh well. You can still buy at Namche Bazaar if you forgot!

National flag! We were really sad that we totally forgot about bringing our beloved Singapore flag up to EBC 🙁 Tried finding it there but to no avail. We didn’t see any flags being planted at EBC since it’s not a peak or whatever. But it would be nice to stick up our flag with a message on it at the teahouse that we stayed at before heading to EBC.

Permanent marker – To simply leave a message on random places? (etc. our flag…)

Listerine mouth wash – As you go higher, it starts to get too cold to even wash your face or brush your teeth! We actually didn’t brush our teeth for 2 days when we were at EBC. The water was all frozen and it was just too cold and troublesome to get water from the kitchen staff. So, mouth wash would be great in this kinda situation!

Did we miss out anything? Do share with us in the comments below!

 

 

What to Expect When Trekking to Everest Base Camp

What to Expect When Trekking to Everest Base Camp

We just got back from a 2 weeks trek to Everest Base Camp and it was such a fantastic and unforgettable experience! Here’s what to expect if you’re planning on trekking to Everest Base Camp too!

Training & preparation for the trek

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50 storeys stairs training in Singapore!

To be honest, I don’t think you can ever be 100% prepared for it. But for us, we mostly did a lot of stairs training, cardio and strength training. In Singapore the places that we can trek are quite limited and even then, nothing could prepare us for the high altitude and freezing temperatures. Check out how we trained for our EBC trek!

Flying into the world’s most dangerous airport

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World’s most dangerous airport!

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There’s even a stewardess in this tiny plane!

The first challenge of the trek is actually flying into the world’s most dangerous airport. Some locals often joke that the most dangerous part of EBC trek is the flight itself. It really takes a lot of skills and precision to land accurately and safely on the really short (500m) and treacherous runway that’s situated on a steep cliff. There’s a reason why this airport is renowned for being the world’s most dangerous airport!

Actual trek & terrain

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Starting our 2 weeks trek to Everest Base Camp

The terrain is actually mostly flat, with only some steep inclined slopes on some days. On an average, we trekked about 5-7 hours every day. Majority of the trek for the day would be “flat” by Nepali standards (they call it “Nepali Flat“) as even though they claim it’s flat, it’s still undulating.

Tip: We strongly recommend to get a pair of hiking poles to help ease the pressure off your knees. They also come in really handy in helping you with your balance when clambering over loose rocks! (We got ours at Kathmandu!)

The difficult part of the trek is that it’s a multi-day hike. Most of the other treks that we did such as Mount Kinabalu or even Mount Rinjani, they were only for a few days. But EBC will require at least 14 days to complete; it was definitely not easy battling the cold, altitude sickness and fatigue for a prolonged period.

Health & altitude sickness

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The struggle was real with altitude sickness.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is real and should be taken very seriously. It can hit anyone regardless of your age, fitness level, etc. I was hit really badly by AMS and had completely zero appetite for almost 7 days of the trek! Hardly ate anything during this period and really depended on my chocolate bars and mental strength to eventually make it to EBC. It was so bad that my guide seriously considered to use heli-evacuation to get me down to Lukla :/

Tip: To be safe, just take Diamox pills before your trek till you’ve eventually descended to a lower altitude. Trust us, this will save you from a lot of pain.

Please bring along all the medication that you will need, unless you’re comfortable with popping local pills. We brought only the bare minimum, but on hindsight, we would bring medicines for all of the following sicknesses:

  • Altitude sickness – Diamox (check with your agency, some do provide them.)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Flu
  • Sore throat & cough
  • Nauseousness
  • Antibiotics (for any kind of bacteria infection like food poisoning, or throat infection, etc)
  • Panadol (or Ibuprofen for those that prefer without caffeine)

Amazing views of the Himalayas

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The trek may be tough, but the amazing scenery around you makes it worth the while

A multi-day trek is not easy but at least you get to enjoy the majestic view of the Himalayas while you trek. The views along the way are absolutely breathtaking and the weather is also perfect for trekking, at least for most of it till it gets way too cold at the top.

Water & food

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Dal bhat power! Standard meal in Nepal.

Bring along water purification tablets for your drinking water. Our agency were pro-environmental and preferred for us to not purchase the plastic bottles of water. For those curious, the tablets didn’t really have any strong aftertaste and it was quite neutral actually. We used a 2.5 litres water bag and filled up at least 2 litres of water each time. You can easily refill your water along the way or at your lunch place. Drink lots of water, it will help reduce your chances of altitude sickness!

Tip: You can get your water purification tablets at the big supermarket in Kathmandu, much cheaper!

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Almost all the teahouses/restaurants serve the same food

The menu is almost identical at all teahouses and restaurants. Be prepared to see the same food choices for every single meal. The food isn’t that bad though, some of our favourites include chop suey (crispy noodles), Rara or WaiWai noodles (instant noodles, WaiWai noodles is the spicy version), spaghetti (avoid those with cheese though unless you’re a fan of yak cheese), fried rice or chow mein (fried noodles).

Tip: If you can, choose to avoid meat totally throughout the trek. Most of the meat (especially from Namche Bazaar onwards) are not air flown and instead are being carried by the porters which can take days to reach their destination! So usually the meat will remain frozen for several months in the mountains. My food poisoning could partly be due to the meat too.

Bring along chocolate/energy bars and other snacks to fuel your body for the trek! This was a life saver for me, when I had absolutely no appetite, at least I could still munch a little on these snacks which gave me the energy to carry on! You could of course buy them along the way, but bearing in mind that the cost increases exponentially with the altitude. Snicker bars, vacuum packed bakkwa and nuts worked for us! Sweets are also good for energy boost while trekking.

Tip: Please remember to zip up your bag where you keep your snacks to prevent rats from stealing your food! We left our duffel bag opened and to our horror, we found holes in our food packaging that were happily gnawed by fat rats. It was a very sad day for us. Since then, we never go to sleep with our bags unzipped! Also, we could hear rats scurrying around our room at night :S

What to pack

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Things we brought for our EBC trek!

Please do not over pack, most of the time you will only need half of what you actually packed. Check out our ultimate full packing list for EBC trek! If you’re going with an agency, check with them if you will be having a porter. Our agency provided us with 2 porters for the 3 of us. The agency will usually provide you with a huge duffel bag where you can throw in most of your stuff. So don’t over pack if not the poor porter has to be the one that carries your bag all the way to EBC! Usually it’s around 9-10 kg per porter.

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Trekking with our lightweight Pacsafe day pack!

You will only need to carry a small day backpack (20-30 litres is sufficient) while trekking for things that you will need during the day, ie. snacks, water, some warm clothing, etc. Once you reach the teahouse, the porter would already have left your duffel bag in your room.

Click here to see our ultimate packing list for EBC!

Showers and personal hygiene

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At higher altitudes, the water will usually be frozen, don’t expect to bathe much!

Don’t expect to shower every single night during your EBC trek. For us we only showered twice throughout the entire 2 weeks; both times at Namche Bazaar. Hot shower is still available at the higher altitudes, just that it will be more costly and torturous as the air is so cold that the moment you turn off the hot shower, you will shiver like crazy!

Tip: we used disposables for our intimates, most convenient and fuss free. Wet wipes and baby powder will be your next best friend too. For those with oilier scalp, you can consider using dry shampoo too.

At higher altitudes, there will not even be any running water from the tap as it will all be frozen if there was any. You will need to get water from the restaurant for you to wash your face and brush your teeth. Don’t forget to bring your hand sanitiser (2 bottles at least), you will definitely need it, a lot. Bring toilet paper too, they usually don’t provide it at the teahouses.

Accommodation

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Expect very basic accommodation without any heater or toilet.

Most of the accommodation will be basic teahouses with private rooms, some with en suite bathroom. The rooms are not heated and you will need a very good sleeping bag to keep you warm at night! If possible, avoid rooms right next to the shared bathroom, you wouldn’t want to keep hearing footsteps at night while you’re trying to sleep!

Tip: Especially at higher altitudes, it’s definitely worth it to buy a flask of hot water for you to drink at night before you sleep or in the morning. Some people also fill their own bottles with hot water and place it in the sleeping bag for more warmth.

Money & tipping

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Ideally, bring enough US$ and change them first at Kathmandu.

Bring spare USD$ for just in case. We ran out of cash and had to withdraw from the ATM at Kathmandu which charged us $5 transaction fee for every 10,000 rupees withdrawn 🙁 There’s still a ATM machine at Namche Bazaar, but once you go higher, it will be quite impossible to get money already.

Usually the agency will cover most of the basic expenses during the trek, but you will still need some extra cash if you wish to buy snacks, water, hot shower, etc. Don’t forget to put some cash aside for tipping your guide and porter too! Chocolates probably cost $2-4 per bar and hot water costs $3-5 per litres, depending on where you are at.

The usual standard of tipping would be 10% of the total trip cost, but it really depends on you. The best is to tip with your heart 🙂

Which agency we chose

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With our amazing guide, Pravin, and porters – Gori & Gopal!

We did the 20 Days Everest Base Camp + Gokyo package with Mosaic Adventure. Our trip included a city tour of Kathmandu and for the trek, we had 1 guide and 2 porters.

Madhav from Mosaic Adventure responded really promptly to our emails and helped us with all our questions before the trip. What we really liked about them is that they usually organise smaller groups which meant more flexibility and it was so much easier to manage compared to larger groups.

Our guide Parvin was very fun and took very good care of us, helping us book really nice teahouses that were comfortable and had good food! Our porters, Gorei and Gopal, they were like supermen! Both carrying at least 20kg up to EBC! No wonder they often compare Nepali men to “men of steel”!

Try to choose a local agency which will in turn help the local economy as they will be hiring local guides and porters.

Are you planning on climbing EBC too? Did we miss out on anything? Ask us in the comments below if you have any question about your upcoming EBC trek and we will try our best to help you! 🙂

The Scariest & Out Of This World Performance Ever In Indonesia

The Scariest & Out Of This World Performance Ever In Indonesia

We were at West Java celebrating at the Ciletuh Geopark festival when we were invited by our local friends to watch a cultural performance. Thinking that it was a typical local cultural performance, we went along, but we were totally not expecting this…

Ps. Photos in this post might be disturbing to some. Pls do not continue if you’re afraid! Also we can’t confirm if the below story is true, this was just what we experienced with our own eyes. 

The performance started off really normal, with a huge group of dancers in fanciful costumes dancing to the tunes played by a local band.

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At the beginning when the dancers were “normal”

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The performers were dancing to the tunes played by this live band

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Then we started noticing the men dressed in blue squatting around the edge of the performance area and our local friend told us that they were bomohs (malay witch doctor) that were responsible for making sure that everything goes smoothly. Ok…*speechless*

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The audience was entirely local and we were the only foreigners! Which made it seem even more real.

Then midway through the performers, the bomohs suddenly stood up and started their ritual. They whipped the ground with a loud thud followed by burning of some incense paper.

Shortly after, the dancers started reacting really really weirdly! Their dance moves started to change completely and there were some performers whose body couldn’t take the “force” and started going into seizures! Some of them were literally vibrating and trembling non-stop on the ground till the bomoh came over to help them! It was a super scary sight to witness!

We were puzzled as we were still figuring out if it was just a staged performance or was it actually real?! :S

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The bomoh helping one of the performers who was having a seizure.

The main character in white soon appeared and apparently he was supposed to be able to perform inhumane tasks such as swallowing glass fragments, razor blades, cracking a whole coconut with his bare skull, etc!

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The main character making a grand entrance

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The main character swallowing broken pieces of glass!

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Look at his eyes!! Super scary and devilish! :S

The other performers were also taking turns to drink some strange white looking liquid that were fed to them by the bomohs. For some strange reason, they were not allowed to use their hands and their hands were constantly placed behind their back._DSC4294.jpg

Thankfully both Daniel and me were safe. Apparently there were 2 locals from the audience who also got possessed by the spirits and the bomohs had to help them!

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Bomohs assisting a guy from the audience who got possessed.

According to our local friend, the purpose of this performance was to thank the spirits for a good harvest. It was supposed to be a happy celebration. As you can see from the photo below, the “spirit” was enjoying his cigarettes while happily residing in the performer’s body!

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“Spirit” enjoying himself in the performer’s body

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Bomoh subduing the strong spirit in the main character’s body

This performance will go on for the entire night (around 6 hours of non-stop dancing) and usually by the end of the performance, the dancers will be extremely exhausted and they will end up sleeping continuously for the next 2-3 days.

Our local friend explained to us that this performance was actually detrimental to the dancer’s body and health. I questioned their reason for wanting to do this, and it was mainly because of the good income. The government pay them quite well and as they were mostly uneducated and from the village, this served as a good source of income for them.

Any of you experienced such a show before? Or can anyone share some insights about the truth behind the above performance? We’re still confused as to whether is this whole performance staged, or was it really genuine…Hmmmmmm

Spelunking Adventure at Ugong Rock in Sabang

Spelunking Adventure at Ugong Rock in Sabang

For all adventure lovers, do consider checking out Ugong Rock if you’re already planning on heading to Puerto Princesa for the Underground River tour. We did both the spelunking adventure as well as the superman & bike zipline adventure. So here’s how our little adventure went!

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Fun fact: Ugong means “sound” in tagalog. A sound will be produced when you hit the rock at the cave. 

We started off with the bamboo zip-bike which was located near the caving adventure. This was a new addition to the Ugong Rock adventures. It was pretty interesting “cycling” in the sky. It was a quite fun albeit a little short. But you will cycle there and back to the starting point. Worth the try if you’re there!

Cost: 350pesos per pax.

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Bamboo zip-bike adventure at Ugong Rock!

Usually the more popular zipline was the superman zipline. We felt that the superman zipline was more fun than the zip-bike as it was a lot faster as well. Definitely a must do!

Cost: 350pesos per pax.

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Superman Zipline at Ugong Rock!

Next up would be the spelunking adventure, overall it was much shorter and simpler than expected. The entire process lasted maybe 15-20minutes only? Our past caving adventures at other places last for at least a couple of hours usually! Still it was a good and fun workout and we found ourselves breaking out in sweat at the end of it.

Cost: 200pesos per pax.

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Tip: Do not bring a big bag as we were told to bring along our bag into the cave as well. And some of the passage ways of the cave were quite narrow and we had a little of problem with our bags. This place didn’t seem to have any lockers.

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Best to wear proper shoes with good grip!

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Tip: Tf you’re short on time, you can also choose to combine both the Ugong Rock adventure and the Underground River tour in 1 day. We took only about 1.5 hours at Ugong Rock.

How to get to Ugong Rock from Sabang (12km away)

There will be a small Lexus booth at the bus terminal in Sabang. Just check with the guy at the booth for any bus that will pass by Ugong Rock. Bus leaves at 7.30am, 8.30am or 1pm onwards daily; bus fare costs 40pesos per pax.

Going there was no problem, it was returning to Sabang that was a little tricky. The guy told us that there will be many buses returning to Sabang around 11am-12pm. We just had to wait for the bus and hop on any. In the end we ended the caving adventure at 10.30am and waited till 12.30pm before the Lexus bus arrived and took us back to Sabang.

So if you’re heading to Puerto Princesa for the Underground River tour and have some time to spare, do check out Ugong Rock adventure! Have you been there before? Do share with us your experience in the comments below!

Guide to DIY Underground River Tour in Puerto Princesa

Guide to DIY Underground River Tour in Puerto Princesa

The Underground River tour in Puerto Princesa is definitely a must visit if you’re heading to Palawan. Here’s how you can DIY for the Underground River tour without paying a hefty fee to local tour agencies!

Where to purchase tickets for Underground River tour:

1. City Coliseum in Puerto Princesa City

2. Directly at Sabang

Tip: If you’re heading there during peak season, it would be safer to secure your tickets earlier at the City Coliseum in Puerto Princesa first before heading to Sabang. Rates are the same at both places.

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Purchase your Underground River tickets at Puerto Princesa City Coliseum

How to get to Sabang from Puerto Princesa

By Van (200PHP, 2 hours)

There are plenty of different companies offering transfers via van. Our guesthouse’s owner arranged for us Lexus van transfer and they picked us up directly from our guesthouse.

Tip: If you’re choosy with the seat allocation or if you’re prone to motion sickness, remember to inform your booking agent to reserve either the front seats next to or directly behind the driver! Otherwise, you might be allocated lousy seats at the back which will be a very bumpy and nauseating journey for you!

Total cost of DIY Underground River Tour

Entrance Fee –  250PHP
Audio Device ( compulsory) – 85PHP
Environmental Fee – 40PHP
Boat Ride – 200PHP (if you managed to get at least 6 pax to share a boat). We didn’t have any difficult finding people to share the cost of the boat and we were there during off peak season!
Lexus Van transfer from Puerto Princesa to Sabang – 200PHP

Total cost per adult (foreigner): 775PHP

The cost savings is rather substantial as compared to going for a organised tour! Usually the cost of such tours will be around 1,500PHP if you go with a local agency. But of course, they have additional perks such as a sumptuous buffet for lunch (we aren’t big eaters anyway) and they also pick you up directly from your hotel. We just prefer having the flexibility of organising the trip on our own.

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Rates of Underground River Tour

The tour itself is pretty much straightforward once you’re at Sabang, you will take the boat at the port which will bring you to the cave entrance. The Underground River tour takes around 2 hours in total including the boat ride to and fro from the cave entrance.

Tip: Bring along a poncho or waterproof jacket if you’re there during the rainy season or risk getting soaked like wet chickens like what happened to us!

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Have you been to the Underground River? Would you recommend DIY or to go with a tour agency? Share with us your view in the comments below! 😀

Sunrise Odyssey