Travelogue

The Gibbon Experience in Laos

The Gibbon Experience in Laos

One of the main highlights of our trip was really the Gibbon Experience in Laos where we slept overnight in a treehouse in the middle of the Bokeo Nature Reserve!

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The beautiful sunset that we witnessed from our treehouse

Before we reached the treehouse, we had to trek up to a certain altitude high enough for us to zip line across to a lower altitude within the forest. The trek was pretty short and manageable, just a couple of hours (around 4-5 hours i think). Terrain was quite easy for trekking too.

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And finally, after hours of trekking and a couple of zip lines, we could see our treehouse! This treehouse was built on one of the tallest and biggest tree overlooking the entire forest.

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The experience of living in a treehouse in the middle of the forest was so tranquil and amazing. The sound of nature was so peaceful to the soul. I cannot even emphasize enough. We all each get to sleep on a rather thick and comfy green mattress with a blanket draped over us like a canopy as shown in the photo above. So cozy and perfect to sleep in!

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One of the interesting things of the treehouse is the toilet. The toilet was built behind the thick trunk, with a curtain acting as a door. First time ever doing my business while facing nature directly. Also, not to mention the icy cold water that we had to shower in under the moonlight. But nonetheless, it was really an awesome experience.

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Lunch with the other trekkers at the treehouse

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Chilling at night with the other trekkers, getting to know one another over beer and some card games.

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Essential Information

There are 2 main types of packages:

1. The Gibbon Experience 3 days 2 nights program

(a) The Classic Gibbon Experience  

The Classic Gibbon experience is relaxing and peaceful, with only an hour of essential walking. You choose how you want to spend your time, there is no strict schedule; food will come when you are hungry though, and the guides will always be around at your service. This option uslally enables gibbon eencounters with little effort. Up to three groups of eight people depart on alternate days as of 8am for 2 nights in scattered tree houses within the Nam Kan National park.

(b) The Waterfall Gibbon Experience

The Waterfall  Gibbon  Experience  takes you deeper into the Park, trekking for two to three hours per day along the Nam Nga River and through a fresh-water swimming pool and a charming waterfall. One tree house overlooks the river while the other shows sunsets overlooking several valleys. To join this option you should be in a reasonably good shape. Two groups of 8 people depart on alternate days as of 8 am for two nights in Bokeo reserve, swapping tree houses on the second night.

Departure dates and fares (per person, individuals or groups alike):

Classic Gibbon Experience: 2 350 000 kips (advance online payment: approx. 290 USD or 220  Euros 
upon daily exchange rates)= odd days: 1st, 3rd, etc

Waterfall Gibbon Experience: 2 350 000 kips (advance online payment: approx. 290 USD or 220 Euros 
upon daily exchange rates )= even days: 2nd, 4th, etc

2. The Gibbon Express 2-day 1-night program (we chose this)

Road access is one hour only and initial walk takes one a half hour. A series of very long zip-lines then fly you from mountain to mountain to the heart of the Nam Kan National Park and to the most giant trees living now in the Lao PDR. However, only one gibbon family lives in that area so your chances to meet gibbons are low in this program. Departure dates and fare (per person, individuals or groups alike)

Price: 1 400 000 Kips (advance online payment: approx. 180 USD or 130 Euro upon daily exchange rates ) Departure every day.

Both packages include:
* Exclusive access to the Bokeo Nam Kan National Park
* Transportation to and from the National Park
* Accommodation in a canopy-level tree house complete with running water, semi-private comfortable bedrooms, and a spectacular view
* Fire-cooked meals
* Unlimited access to an extensive canopy cable-gliding network for exploring the treetops
* Local guides with a good knowledge of the forest and a basic English
* Harnesses (guests should have waist perimeter < 120 cm and thigh perimeter < 80cm)

For us, we chose the Gibbon Express 2 Days 1 Night programme as we felt that it was sufficient to get a taste of the Gibbon Experience. 3 days might be a little too long. It was also because of budget that we selected the cheaper package.

Fishing in New Zealand!

Fishing in New Zealand!

So, we decided to try fishing in New Zealand and went ahead to book a chartered fishing boat. Within the first hour, we caught countless of fishes, a baby shark and a giant octopus! (don’t worry, we released the shark and octopus back out into the sea) But honestly, this fishing trip was way too easy! Not challenging enough!

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Yup, that’s right, it’s really that easy. You release the reel and drop the line and once you’re done, reel it back in and you’ll see 3 fishes caught on your single fishing line!

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The baby shark was caught by Daniel and he had quite a lot of fun playing tug of war with the shark! It really did put up quite a strong fight!

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Also, meet our new friend on board, Mr Tako. A pity they don’t do sashimi there. If not………yum yum!

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Best part of this fishing trip?

Everybody on the boat gets a lobster each! It was the most palatable thing that we’ve ever tasted.  Straight from the sea and freshly boiled. While we were out fishing, our dear captain dropped pods (cages) along the way to catch some lobsters. Then after we were done fishing, we revisited the spots that the pods were dropped and reeled them back up. We were so excited to see so many lobsters caught!

Our captain placed all the caught lobsters in boiling hot water. As soon as we’ve reached the jetty, they gave all of us 1 lobster each. Never in my life have we ever seen such a humongous lobster before! And boy was it the best food that we’ve both ever tasted in our lives….The lobster flesh was just so fresh, sweet and springy! Salivating right now as i’m typing this….

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Essential information
I can’t recall exactly which fishing charter we went with as we researched on quite a number of them. But we did it at South Island in NZ and paid around $100 each for a 3 hours fishing trip. It was really worth it in our opinion, caught gazillion number of fishes, plus 1 huge lobster each!

Just google fishing charter in New Zealand and you’ll find plenty of choices to choose from!

Otago Rail Trail – 2 Days Cycling Expedition in NZ

Otago Rail Trail – 2 Days Cycling Expedition in NZ

And so, we continued our entirely spontaneous journey by taking on the Otago Rail Trail, a 2 days cycling expedition.

We cycled through old gold mining towns, into long dark tunnels and across absolutely breathtaking Otago scenery. But of course, what’s life without some excitement and adventure. As always, we found ourselves in some unexpected crisis the second day. Read on to find out more about the crisis we faced!

Getting ready for our 2 day cycling expedition! And yes, chomp on a banana first for the energy that you’ll need later! As you can see, we were all decked up in our thick jackets and all…temperature was pretty low and we were the only crazy ones going for this rail trail at this time of the year.

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Cycling through the meadows, a sense of total tranquility. Just us and nature.

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We had to get water from the river for us to use later to cook our meals. We did bring our own drinking water though. Don’t think it’s advisable to drink straight from the river water. We only used it to cook our meals and for washing up.

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We had a good rest and we were all ready for the second leg of the journey. But before we knew it, the sky started to change…  

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And soon it started to hail on us! And to make matters worse, Dan’s bicycle had a flat tyre! And we still had quite a long way more to go! We had to reach our destination by 5pm as there will be someone there to pick us up. We really struggled through and alternated between walking and cycling! It was impossible for Dan to cycle all the way with a flat tyre. The winds got so strong that we could even hardly cycle straight. It really felt like a hurricane!

But thank god, we did it.

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Essential information
Otago Rail Trail
If i don’t recall wrongly, we paid about $100 each for the bikes for 2 days rental. We stayed in a tent, hence no need for accommodation.

Click  here  to find out more on bike rentals and the rates

White Water Rafting New Zealand – Grade 5

White Water Rafting New Zealand – Grade 5

We have always wanted to do white water rafting, and again, no where else better to do it than White Water Rafting New Zealand.

But so anyway, we decide to go for a 5 star (most challenging) white water rafting adventure at Kaitiaki Adventures.  Unfortunately we did not manage to capture any photos of the adventure in action. We didn’t buy the professional pictures taken by them as we thought it was kinda of too expensive. But on hindsight, maybe we should have. Oh well..

It was quite interesting how much efforts they paid in really respecting the river. Before we raft off, our guide made us stand by the edge of the river, with our heads bowed down, while he made a prayer of respect for the river.

So anyway, the main exciting part of this adventure was the 6m high waterfall that our raft had to go through! Our raft would be totally vertical as it goes down the waterfall! The picture below’s the exact same place that we did ours, just that it’s not us.

Getting ready to raft off!
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Photo credit:  www.cheapestwaytotravelhq.com
So our guide told us that there’ll be 2 scenarios for this.
1. Our boat goes down vertical, enters the water and returns back up to the surface in a normal upright position, with everyone intact in the boat.
2. Our boat goes down, enters the water and capsizes. And that was exactly what happened to our boat.

We were given some steps to follow as we approached the waterfall. Obviously there was not much time to think and before we know it, we were already plunging down and next thing we knew, we were already submerged underwater beneath the raft.  But thankfully, nobody from our raft got injured.

Another raft wasn’t as lucky though. In fact that raft consisted of more elderlies and when they went down the waterfall, we held our breath as we watched, and then up they come, their raft did not capsized and everybody cheered for them! But suddenly at the corner of our eyes, we saw someone floating! Apparently an elderly lost her footing as the boat went down and was swept away by the river! They brought her back up to the boat but her nose started to bleed real bad! Luckily the bleeding stopped after some time. Apparently she did not manage to tuck her head in time as they went down the waterfall and ended up hitting her nose on her husband’s helmet in front of her! Poor her! Must have hurt real bad :/

That said, this shouldn’t stop you from wanting to try white rafting! It’s really thrilling especially when the rapids  get  too fast.

Essential Info
Kaitiaki Adventures, based in Rotura, NZ.
Kaituna River  (Grade 5)
Approx $99/pax

 

Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand

Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand

Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest park and heralded as one of the best treks in New Zealand. Unfortunately, we weren’t blessed with good weather when we were there but still, we went ahead. When we arrived at the visitor centre at the Tongariro National Park, we were advised by the staff to postpone our trek due to the bad weather – strong gale and possibility of snow. She mentioned that just the night before, a group of trekkers had to be rescued via helicopter as they were stranded at one of the summit. That scared us quite a bit, but since our trip was entirely spontaneous and we traveled all the way here just for this trek, we decided to proceed with our plans.

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Here’s a glimpse of how strong the wind was.

At night it got worse as it started to hail. Hail plus crazy strong wind. No joke. We felt like we were in the midst of a storm! We woke up at around 3am and we both had a pounding headache. It felt like everything was spinning and our heads were pounding so furiously that it felt like they were gonna explode. But because it was so late at night, plus it was so cold, we decided to continue sleeping for another 3 hours before dawn breaks. But after a few minutes, we really couldn’t take it and decided to escape to the safe hut nearby. Thank goodness we did that, if not, i’m not sure if we would have even woken up the next morning…..

IMG_0148  Well, we will be back again!

2D1N Sea Kayaking in New Zealand – Sun, Sea and Seals

2D1N Sea Kayaking in New Zealand – Sun, Sea and Seals

And so we embarked on our first ever 2d1n sea kayaking in New Zealand at Abel Tasman National Park.

You don’t need to have any kayaking certificate in order to take on this expedition. But it’s a bonus if you do have one as it helps build your confidence when you’re out there kayaking in the open sea, braving the strong winds and currents. Our kayaks had a spray deck (basically it’s this tight sheet that covers the opening of the kayak to prevent water from entering) which can be quite challenging to remove when underwater. Thus that’s when your 2 star kayaking cert will come in handy. But then again, our facilitator assured us that it’s very unlikely for our 2 seater kayak to capsize due to it’s long, wide and very stable structure. Well, luckily we didn’t prove him wrong (not that we wanted to anyway).

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Bob the trusty navigator

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Spotted some lazy seals sunbathing by the rocks

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Finally, lunch time! Indomee, our comfort food for the trip 🙂

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Our home for the night

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On the second day of our kayaking adventure, our water taxi forgot about us 🙁 Waited 1.5 hours for the water taxi and still it hasn’t arrived! We tried calling the organizer but we had no reception here at this deserted beach! Luckily Bob reacted fast and decided to use our Singapore sim card to get a better reception. Despite the bad reception, we managed to convey our message across to them that we’re here stranded. Thankfully, the water taxi arrived in an hour’s time to pick us up before it got too dark and cold!

Useful information
Abel Tasman Kayaks
$110/pax/day
For us, we did the 2d1n independent sea kayaking trip and camped over night in our own tent at the park.

Bungy in New Zealand – Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Bungy in New Zealand – Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Watch us do the scariest thing of our lives! As the saying goes, buy the ticket, take the ride. No backing out. – Bungy in New Zealand!

Yes it should be  Bungy, and not  Bungee.  Anyway, we did the Nevis Bungy Jump with  AJHackett  and paid around SGD$300 plus each after purchasing the photos and dvd. We basically jumped from this cable car in the middle of a narrow valley, with only a small trickle of river at the rocky bottom.  Bungy is really one of the scariest experience that we’ve ever accomplished in our lives. It’s 10 times more nerve wrecking then sky diving! As the saying goes, buy the ticket, take the ride. No backing out after the ticket has been bought.

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Sky Diving in New Zealand Lake Taupo

Sky Diving in New Zealand Lake Taupo

Sky Diving has always been on our bucket list…kinda one of those “must dos” in life. Where else better than sky diving in New Zealand!

So, we did our sky dive at  Lake Taupo  in NZ. We paid around SGD$500 each for the sky dive plus video & photos. You can check out their  website  for more detailed pricing packages. If you’ve never tried sky diving before, you really ought to! It’s definitely one of the best experiences of our lives! From the moment they dress you up in that astronaut looking suit, to going up the small aircraft, and then tumbling freefall over the world’s most beautiful dropzone! If the skies are clear, you should be able to see both North Island and South Island while sky diving. Watch our sky diving video below  or let the photos do the talking…enjoy!

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Top Adventures in New Zealand

Top Adventures in New Zealand

If sky diving, bungy jumping, ice climbing, white water rafting and black water rafting are on your bucket list, then NZ is the perfect place to tick all of that off your list of top adventures in New Zealand!

1. Sky Diving

Sky diving was definitely one of the most thrilling experiences that we’ve had thus far! And where else better than New Zealand to sky dive!

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2. Bungy Jump

Yes it should be Bungy, and not Bungee. Bungy is really one of the scariest experience that we’ve ever accomplished in our lives. It’s 10 times more nerve wrecking then sky diving! As the saying goes, buy the ticket, take the ride. No backing out after the ticket has been bought.  

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3. Sea Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park

Craving for some peaceful and tranquil moments? Sea kayaking at Abel Tasman would be just perfect. The moment you’re out there in the deep sea, surrounded by the vast ocean, hearing nothing but the splashes made by your own paddles, you’ll feel like you’re in paradise.

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4.  Tongariro Alpine Crossing

One of the world’s renowned treks. Unfortunately we went at a time when the weather wasn’t too favourable for the trek. But nonetheless, it was literally a breath taking experience for us. Read on to find out why!

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5. White Water Rafting

We have always wanted to do white water rafting, and again, no where else better to do it than NZ.  But so anyway, we decide to go for a 5 star (most challenging) white water rafting adventure at  Kaitiaki Adventures.

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6. Otago Rail Trail

And so, we continued our entirely spontaneous journey by taking on the Otago Rail Trail, a 2 days cycling expedition. We cycled through old gold mining towns, into long dark tunnels and across absolutely breathtaking Otago scenery. But of course, what’s life without some excitement and adventure. As always, we found ourselves in some unexpected crisis the second day.

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7. Ice Climbing at Fox Glacier

We both tried rock climbing before and wondered how difficult ice climbing would be! So we decided to take on the challenge and to give ice climbing a try! My gosh….it was really quite a tough feat! But definitely worth the try!

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If you’ve had any other exciting adventures in NZ that we missed out, do share in the comments below and tell us about it! We would love to hear about your experience too 🙂

Travelling New Zealand in a Campervan

Travelling New Zealand in a Campervan

Travelling New Zealand in a Campervan was definitely one of the best decisions that we’ve made for this road trip.

We really enjoyed travelling in a campervan despite the slight squeeziness (thankfully us being asians, it’s not that big a problem for us unless of course you’re claustrophobic) and the chore of having to empty out our waste tank every few days (but it’s not as bad as we initially thought it would be). You’ll see that most people travel in a campervan in NZ and to us, it’s really one of the best way of experiencing New Zealand.

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So how does this whole “travelling in a campervan’ thing work?

First of all, let me give you a better idea of what the interior of a campervan looks like. Yes that’s me in the background in the midst of preparing our lunch, looking very unglam. But hey! Cooking our own meals in the campervan was definitely one of the highlights of our NZ trip!

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Basically, in the day, the sofa seats that you see in the pictures above will get transformed into a bed at night. The same sofa seating area will also be the dining area. The narrow corridor of the campervan will be where you’ll do your cooking and washing.

Here’s a peak into our superbly small toilet (beware, it’s a little gross! Unfortunately, this is the only photo I have of the toilet). As you can see, you can either choose to stand up to take a shower or sit down to do your business. It was indeed a challenge getting changed into our clothes in this very small space.

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 Let me explain the flooded toilet as shown in the photo above. There are 2 waste tanks in the campervan that you’ll have to empty out every 2-3 days when it’s maybe around 3/4 full. 1 waste tank is for human excretion. And the other waste tank is for what goes into your sink (eg. the water that goes down the drain when you shower, or the water that you used to wash your dishes, etc).

And so this is what happens when you do not empty out your tank diligently in time. You get a flooded campervan. Trust me, not a very good experience. Lesson learnt. Empty out both tanks whenever you can. Don’t wait and think that it can wait till the next waste dump site.

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So one question that we get very often is, how do you empty out your waste?!

It’s actually really simple! The campervan will come with a packet of blue crystals thingy which you’ll have to pour into the container that stores your waste. These magical blue crystals help to take away any stench of your waste and at the same time, it colourizes it to blue! (Hence making it look less gross.) You can easily get these crystals off the shelf at petrol stations or supermarkets.

There are many places in NZ designated for you to dump your waste. Campervan Parks are aplenty and each will definitely have a dump station. You should be able to find dump stations along the roads, just look out for the dump site sign as shown below!

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To empty out the waste tank, find a dumpsite and pour out its contents into the sewage hole. Flush out the tank with water, add in the magical blue crystals and tada, you’re done!

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So next question often posed to us is, where do you park your campervan at night? There are basically 2 ways.

1. Freedom camping (budget method)

Freedom camping  means parking your campervan for free at non designated campsites with no facilities. Sometimes you can park your van along the road as long as it does not obstruct traffic. However bearing in mind that there’s a no freedom camping rule of 2km away from town centre. Most of the time to save cost, we’ll usually freedom camp. But just make sure that your campervan is sufficiently charged to last throughout the night (you’ll need power to charge your electronics and heater to keep you warm.) Also ensure that your waste tanks are empty or near empty. You don’t want to end up with a flooded campervan the next morning. Usually for us, we’ll alternate between staying in a holiday park and freedom camping.

2. Holiday Parks

Staying in a holiday park  is pretty awesome. Some parks even have hot tubs which we happily soaked in during the colder nights. Okay but more importantly, there are charging points for you to charge your campervan, dump sites for you to empty out the tanks and water points to refill the water container in the campervan.

Some common facilities that you can find in most campervan parks:

  • Shower facilities
  • Shared kitchen
  • Laundry services
  • Dumpsites
  • Water points
  • Charging points
  • Heat pools/hot tubs
  • Swimming pools
  • Mini mart

But of course, it varies from park to park and also there are different budgets for each park. On an average, it’ll cost around $10-$15/night  for a powered site. Hot tub is a bonus. Heheh.

Essential information

Campervan – we rented ours from  Maui, rental cost is around NZ1260 for about 27 days. (SG and NZ’s exchange rate at that time was almost the same. 1NZ = 1.0186SG.) We also bought insurance for our campervan which cost another NZ 126. So total around 3k NZ$ after adding in the other miscellaneous costs. Insurance is definitely recommended. You don’t know what might happen to your van during the trip and it’s best to travel with a peace of mind.

That said, of course there are many other ways of experiencing NZ. You can rent a car, take a bus, or hop on local tours. It’s all up to your individual preferences 🙂 But our vote definitely goes to the Campervan!

Do share with us your experience in the comments below if you’ve travelled in a campervan before too!

Sunrise Odyssey