Travelogue

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! 😀

8 Exciting Things To Do In Palawan in 5 Days

8 Exciting Things To Do In Palawan in 5 Days

Palawan has always been renowned for its stunning beauty and it is no surprise that it has been rated as the most beautiful island in the world by Conde Nast Traveller in 2016. So here’s our recommended list of things to do in Palawan in 5 days!

#1. Underground River in Puerto Princesa

This is definitely a must do if you’re travelling to Palawan. This attraction is also a World Heritage UNESCO site and it has one of the most impressive cave systems in the world. Its spectacular limestone karst formation is also highly commendable.

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Inside the remarkable Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park!

As part of their conservation efforts, it was compulsory for us to pay for the audio device for the tour. It was to reduce the noise in the caves that would affect the bats and other creatures living inside the cave. Thumbs up to the team for its eco tourism efforts! Read our post on how you can DIY for the underground river tour!

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Went during the rainy season, turned out great nonetheless!

#2. Spelunking Adventure at Ugong Rock

If you’re already at Puerto Princesa for the Underground River tour, you can also make your trip even more worthwhile by going for a caving adventure at Ugong Rock! Don’t expect much though, the Ugong Rock adventure is kinda easy and can be completed within 1 hour. But still, it was quite fun! 🙂 Click here for our guide on how to get to Ugong Rock on your own!

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#3. Diving in El Nido

Diving in El Nido is great if you love macro marine life! We spotted nudi branches, lion fishes (plenty of them, be careful not to go too near!), trumpet fishes, barracudas, ghost fish, cuttlefish, trigger fish, sting rays, electric clam, eels, and many more! We dived with Deep Blue Dive Seafari (recommended!) and enjoyed 2 days of awesome diving with them! Check out our detailed post what it’s like to dive in El Nido during the  monsoon season!

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#4. Cliff Climbing at Taraw Cliff in El Nido

Sadly we didn’t get to experience this activity on our own though as the weather wasn’t on our side. We were there in El Nido during the rainy season and it was too dangerous to attempt this cliff climb. Apparently the local tour agency told us that you need 3 consecutive sunny days before you can go on this tour! Well, it rained every day when we were there….But still, you should give it a try if you’re there during the dry season! The view from the peak seems spectacular!

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Photo credits: disislanz.files.wordpress.com

#5. Island Hopping at El Nido

There are 4 main tours (A,B,C,D) in El Nido that all agencies organise. Most popular would be Tour A where you get to see 3 different beaches as well as 2 lagoons. After going for the tour, we can understand why it was the most popular tour. The lagoons really lived up to their hype and they were so pretty!

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At the big lagoon of El Nido

Usually lunch will be provided and cooked on board the boat and it was really delicious! Also you will get to snorkel when the boat stops at the beach or lagoon. Snorkelling gear will usually be provided by the agency. There are plenty of agencies providing this tour, just go up to any and sign up for it. Cost is around 1,200PHP for Tour A.

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#6. Explore the Hidden Gem, Nacpan Beach

If you have a spare day, try to include Nacpan Beach in your itinerary! We found out about this hidden gem after talking to one of the locals and apparently the locals loved this beach! It’s about 45 minutes away from El Nido city by motorbike.

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Pristine quiet beach with almost no tourist!

How to get to Nacpan Beach: You can either take a trike or rent a motorbike. It’s north of the main El Nido city and it’s just a straight route till you see the sign that leads to Nacpan beach.

Tip: Avoid going on your own by motorbike during rainy season. The route leading to the beach is mud ground and when it’s wet, you can imagine the challenge of biking through it. Well, we lived to tell the tale though, so we still recommend it for those with a penchant for exciting adventures! 😀

#7. Hike up the Twin Peaks at Nacpan Beach

If you’ve decided to include Nacpan Beach in your to do list, don’t forget to hike up the twin peaks near Nacpan Beach. When facing the sea, the Twin Peaks will be on your far left. Just walk towards it and walk up the trail. The view from the top is breathtaking! The hike is a relatively short 15 minute hike albeit it being quite steep when nearing the top. We were just wearing slippers and it was pretty manageable actually.

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Hiking up the Twin Peaks at Nacpan Beach

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#8. Explore the island on a motorbike

If you have another spare day or afternoon, consider renting a motorbike to explore the other parts of the island! You can get to waterfalls, Nacpan Beach, or simply just enjoy the picturesque views along the way.

Cost of renting a motorbike: 300PHP for a whole day

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Exploring El Nido on a bike!

So that’s it! Hope you’ve enjoyed our post on things to do in Palawan! Do comment below if there’s anything that we’ve missed out and should be added to our list! 🙂

Our Experience on Diving in El Nido, Palawan During Monsoon Season

Our Experience on Diving in El Nido, Palawan During Monsoon Season

We’ve long heard about the highly raved about beautiful pristine beaches of Palawan, the crystal clear azure waters and finally we get to check it out for ourselves! Both of us absolutely love diving and couldn’t wait to dive at El Nido!

Ps. We went during the monsoon season but all turned out great! Read on to see our experience on what it’s like to dive during the rainy season!

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Can you see the impending storm approaching…

What to look out for when choosing a dive company

So first thing first, the challenge was selecting a reliable and trustworthy dive company to dive with! There were just too many to choose from and after reading tons of reviews from online blogs and forums, we’ve decided to go ahead with Deep Blue Dive Seafari (highly recommended by us!).

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When travelling, we’re willing to save on food/accommodation, but activities (especially when it involves safety) is something that we will never compromise on. 

Always do your homework and research online first for travellers’ reviews of that shop. Check that their equipment look reasonable and safe (not rusty or looking too old). Assess the dive master’s knowledge, talk to them and make sure they know what they’re talking about. Never make a decision based on lowest price offered (red flag alert if their prices are too cheap to be true!)

We dived with Deep Blue Dive Seafari and we’re both very satisfied and happy with them. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a safe and trustable company to dive with. You can read more reviews on them here by other travellers!

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Delicious lunch prepared by their in-house chef on board, best ever!!

We did a 6 dives package (2 days) with them and lunch was included too! Lunch was prepared by the chef on board and it was sooooo good! 😀

So, what to expect when diving in El Nido during “monsoon season”

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uh-oh……we’re in trouble….

Unfortunately, we went during the rainy season in October to El Nido and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Since most people say that the best time to visit El Nido would be during summer (March-May). Well, there’s always a good out of every “bad” situation right?

True enough, it rained almost every day that we were there in El Nido. But thankfully, the rain usually either starts in the late afternoon onwards (after 3pm) or throughout the night. Usually in the morning, it’ll be clear and sunny, perfect for diving!

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Getting ready for our dive!

But best part of it all? There aren’t as many people/boats here as compared to during the summer months! Apparently our guide told us that during peak season, there are 5 times the number of tourists and boats! Can’t imagine!

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Relatively less people during off peak season in El Nido!

Visibility was not as great as compared to summer months, but still it was good enough! One thing we love about diving in El Nido is the wide variety of marine life! We spotted nudi branches, lion fishes (plenty of them, be careful not to go too near!), trumpet fishes, barracudas, ghost fish, cuttlefish, trigger fish, sting rays, electric clam, eels, and many more! Enjoy the photos taken below during our dives!

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When is the best time to dive in El Nido

It really depends on your priority. For us we had no choice as our schedule only allowed us to travel during this period (October) which happened to be the rainy season in Philippines. But thankfully all turned out great still! We would avoid summer (peak season) though, can’t imagine diving with 20 other boats around.

Dec-Feb: Whale Sharks, Sperm Whales, Manta Rays

Summer months (March to May): Dry season, excellent visibility

Where to stay in El Nido

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Recommended accommodation in El Nido – Relucio Travellers Pension

Relucio Travellers Pension 
This little hideout is truly a hidden gem in El Nido. Free drinking water, coffee, hot shower available, aircon/fan option, great location and best part of it all, amazing balcony that overlooks the sea! Room rates start at 500php for a fan room without shower. The owner, Marie, was really nice and warm too!

Click here to check latest pricing and to book for accommodation in Palawan!

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“Private” balcony outside our room!

Another benefit of travelling during off peak season in El Nido, cheaper and more available accommodation options! We practically had the whole balcony to ourselves since there wasn’t anybody else staying here! You can also try asking for discounts during off peak season.

Tip: Remember to book your accommodation in advance when travelling to El Nido even during off peak! We didn’t and most hostels were fully booked and we had to walk around for quite some time with our big backpacks before finding the hidden gem as described above!

Where to eat in El Nido

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Best authentic and cheap Filippino cuisine in El Nido!

We found another little hidden gem that offers cheap and delicious local cuisine! It’s called Maa Grill and Restaurant and they have a special lunch menu of their local fare for only 80PHP for a meal. Pretty decent we say!

How to get to El Nido 

From Sabang

Lexus van, 700PHP, 5.5 hours. You can book the tickets directly at the Lexus booth at the bus terminal. Van leaves Sabang at 7.30am, 8.30am, 1pm, 2pm, 4.30pm.

From Manila

Direct flight (1 hour) – Airswift

Manila to El Nido: 8:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:35 daily
El Nido to Manila: 6:30, 9:55, 11:00, 14:00

Estimated cost: 5,000-7,000PHP one way

Cheaper alternative: Take a budget flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa via Air Asia or Cebu Pacific (est. cost around 2,000PHP) followed by a van transfer (500PHP) from Puerto Princesa to El Nido.

From Puerto Princesa

Van transfer directly from Airport or terminal – 600 to 700 PHP, around 6 hours

Hope the above post is useful to you! Do drop a comment below if there are other useful tips about travelling in El Nido that we missed out!

5 Ways To Train For Everest Base Camp

5 Ways To Train For Everest Base Camp

Daniel and I will be attempting to climb to Everest Base Camp (EBC) with Mosaic Adventure in October this year and we’re really looking forward to it!

Climbing EBC is kinda no joke though, it has an altitude of 17,598 ft (5,364 metres) and most people say that the challenging part of it ain’t the trek itself but the high altitude! Also because the trek is spread over 20 days, that means that a huge amount of stamina is required as there will be at least 6-8 hours of non stop trek per day! The good thing though is that no technical experience is required to climb to EBC. So here are 5 ways that you can train for Everest Base Camp.

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1. Weekly treks at MacRitchie Reservoir or Bukit Timah Hill

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Usually we hike an average of 10km-15km averaging around 2 hours per session. It’s best to trek with a loaded pack to train up your stamina too. Sadly in Singapore the highest altitude that you can train at is only 164m which is at Bukit Timah Hill.

Ps. Read till the end of the post to find out where you can  train at an altitude of up to 4,500m in Singapore!

2. Climb stairs to train your thigh/calf muscles

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One thing about Singapore is that we have a lot of high rise buildings (aka HDB flats), some with even up to 30 storeys. Daniel and me will climb up the stairs with a loaded pack (7kg for Gina and 14kg for Daniel) and usually we’ll do about 3-4 reps each time.

Tip: If you have weaker knees, take the lift down instead!

3. General fitness activities to improve your stamina

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Both Daniel and I are very into rock climbing lately and that has become part of our weekly exercise regime! We normally climb at Onsight or Climb Central and each session usually lasts for about 3-4 hours. You can basically do anything that you love as long as you’re active and it gets your heart pumping! It can range from dance classes, swimming, muay thai boxing to zumba! Anything that excites you and makes you happy! 🙂

4. Weekly gym sessions to increase our strength endurance

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To improve our strength endurance, we train a lot using the TRX at Altitude Gym where we focus on working our different muscle groups which are usually our arms, legs, back and core. Trust me, just try one session of TRX and you won’t be able to feel your arms and legs for the next 3 days! We do a lot of squats and other exercises that specifically target our quads and glutes which will be vital in helping us ascend to Everest Base Camp!

5. Hiking on an inclined/steps treadmill

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On days that you’re feeling too lazy to head all the way to Bukit Timah Hill or MacRitchie, you can workout out at a nearby gym instead! We usually walk for about 30-45 minutes on the treadmill with an inclination of around 10 and speed about 3.5-4. Sounds easy, but trust me, you will find yourself breathless after the 30 minutes! Alternatively, we like training using the steps treadmill where you really work out your thigh muscles!

To train up both our cardiovascular endurance and strength endurance, we’ve been training at Altitude, Singapore’s first simulated altitude training facility where we get to train at a higher altitude (up to 4,500m) even when we’re on low grounds! That’s 25 times higher than the highest point in Singapore which is Bukit Timah Hill!

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We’re at 3,996m in Singapore!

How it works
Altitude Gym makes use of this special technology where it reduces the oxygen level in the gym to around 13-14% as compared to the normal oxygen level of 16%. This lower level of oxygen simulates how you will feel at a much higher altitude where the oxygen is a lot lower.

So it’s pretty much like a regular gym with guided classes, only difference is that you’re training with a much lower oxygen level which will train your heart to pump faster and harder. They also have a wide variety of guided classes ranging from TRX, yoga to circuit training for you to choose from!

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So we’re still 1 month away from our trek and we’ll be training as much as we can to mentally and physically prepare us for the trek! Looking forward to EBC already! 🙂 Do share with us some tips by commenting below on how to train better if you’ve climbed EBC before too!

Top 8 Things To Do in Ciletuh Geopark – West Java of Indonesia

Top 8 Things To Do in Ciletuh Geopark – West Java of Indonesia

Recently Daniel and I were invited to explore Ciletuh Geopark located in West Java of Indonesia. Neither of us have heard about this place before and we were really excited to visit it! Here’s our recommendation on things to do in Ciletuh Geopark!

1. Take a sci-fi shot at Kawah Putih

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Felt like we were on another planet at Kawah Putih!

Kawa Putih translates literally as “white crater” and when you see it you will understand why. Its water is naturally whitish blue which makes it so appealing and picturesque! Plus the morning fog, everything looks so mysterious and sci-fi which makes us look like we were on a totally different planet.

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Tip: If you’re planning on heading to Kawah Putih in the morning, remember to bring along a jacket and preferably wear long pants to fend off the cold! It gets reallllyyy cold in the morning, think it was at least around 10-15 degrees?

2. Walini Tea Plantation

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Fresh local tea anyone?

This place makes an awesome photo stop with the rolling hills of green in the background. Indonesia is well known for their local tea and over here, you can actually purchase their local tea leaves for $2 per box! They come in many interesting flavours such as apple, blackcurrant, ginger, lemon and many more!

3. Witness cute turtle hatchlings at Pangumbahan

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Giant turtle in the midst of laying eggs!

Pangumbahan Turtle Park is one of the largest turtle conservation and breeding parks in Indonesia. We visited the park around 10pm just in time to witness a humongous turtle laying eggs!

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Look at those cute turtle eggs!

Unfortunately there was a delay and we couldn’t make it in time to see the hatchlings being released into the sea which was supposed to be around 5.30pm.

4. Hop on a boat to explore the different rock formations of Ciletuh

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You will get to see a lot of these fishing boats (“bagans”) stationed out there in the deep sea. We saw so many interesting rock formations, some with really interesting names given by the locals.

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Fishing bagan in Ciletuh Geopark

Do keep a lookout for playful dolphins! We were lucky to see a whole group of dolphins (at least 20 of them) swimming behind our boat! Unfortunately we weren’t fast enough to capture a close and good shot of them.

Tip: Bring along sunscreen! Some of the boats do not have shelter and you will definitely be toasted under the sun!

5. Take a dip in the majestic Sudong Waterfall

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At the beautiful Sudong Waterfall

Ciletuh Geopark has a total of 9 waterfalls, one of them is the Sudong Waterfall. You can even swim in it if you’d like!

6. Experience an out of this world performance by the local village tribe

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This is definitely one of the main highlights of our trip! It was so crazy!! Words can’t describe how we felt throughout the performance, you have to witness it for yourself to believe what we’ve said!

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Basically this performance deals with black magic. It’s no secret that Indonesia still uses black magic/voodoo and it was such an interesting experience actually witnessing it for ourselves. The whole idea is that the dancers were really possessed by spirits and there were bomohs (witch doctors) around to manage them.

7. Enjoy the sublime sunset view at the hilltop of Punchak Darma

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On top of the world with love at Punchak Darma! <3

To get to the summit is not that easy actually, it’s quite far and will take at least 2-3 hours if you’re planning to hike up on your own! But for us, our organiser was so kind to arrange motorcyclists to pillion us up!

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calm before the storm.

This ride itself is an activity on its own. The terrain was ultra bumpy and some parts were steep too! To make matters worse, it rained just before we went up, hence the ground was still so muddy! Imagine riding up/down the slopes on a motorcycle, it was absolutely nerve wrecking!

Tip: Don’t forget to check out the Cimarinjiung Waterfall which is near the bottom of the hill.

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At the majestic Cimarinjiung Waterfall!

8. Soak your aching body in a natural hot spring

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Fancy a dip in a local hot spring?

This geyser here in Ciletuh is as natural as it can get. Don’t expect anything fancy at all, it’s kept in its natural state and is mostly utilised by the locals. We were both sun burnt and didn’t dare to soak our bodies in the ultra hot water as it will only worsen our burnt skin condition! But we were standing close enough to feel that the water was really hot! The locals also believe that this natural hot spring water will be able to cure your body from its aches and ailments.

Tip: If you’re game enough, go for their “spa” where you will get a special massage using strong water pressure and it lasts for as long as you’d like! Best part, it costs only $5!

Why You Can’t Leave Sarawak Without Visiting Miri

Why You Can’t Leave Sarawak Without Visiting Miri

Not many people have heard about or even travelled to Miri before. When you think of Sarawak, you will probably only relate it to Kuching. It’s our first time hearing about Miri too and we’re glad that we get to experience this amazing city!

Spot The Bird Nest Hunters At Niah Caves

Niah Caves go way back in history where 40,000 year old human remains were discovered! The tradition of the bird nest hunting also started a long time ago where the locals risk their lives to retrieve those swiftlets’ nests tucked high up in the cave ceiling!

If you look closely at the photo below, you’ll notice these thin long poles hanging down from the cave ceilings. Yes, this is the way up to the cave ceiling where the bird nest collectors get their raw bird nests. They have no safety harness or any other safety equipment when climbing up these wooden poles! Crazy right? These local people have been doing these over many generations and it’s very interesting that each pole belongs to 1 family. Somewhat similar to a plot of farm land that has been distributed to different families.

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At the entrance of Niah Cave

Apparently they used this really strong and heavy hard wood (ironwood) to build the pole ladders. These wood typically last for more than 100 years without rotting or breaking! And they’re really really heavy! I tried lifting one of it and it felt almost impossible. It’s just very hard to imagine how they can build these pole ladders which reach all the way up to the ceiling!

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Ceiling of Niah Cave where the locals collect the raw bird nests

Tip: Start your trip to Niah Cave early! There’s so much to explore within the cave and you will need at least more than 3 hours. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to visit the Painted Caves 🙁

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Challenge Your Senses At Lambir National Park

Usually people visit Lambir National Park during the day but for us, we did something special and did a nocturnal walk instead! According to our guide, the park comes alive at night and the experience is just different from during the day. Boy was it true!

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Night trek at Lambir National Park

Somehow your senses awaken the moment you step into the darkness of this forest. Your ears prick at the slightest and your eyes become more alert and notice every small movement made. Perhaps with full light during the day, our senses tend to take things for granted and fall into “sleep mode”. But they definitely can’t be asleep when it’s all darkness surrounding you.

Tip: This park is awesome for macro photography. Bring along a strong flash light if you wish to take photo of these cute little creatures! Request for Miki (park ranger), he’s very familiar with the park and can help you to spot these tiny creatures.

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Cute tiny leaf frog spotted!

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Colourful micro stick insect

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Cute froggy hiding among the leaves!

Essential Information

How to get there

For Niah Cave, it’s only takes less than hour to drive from Miri city. For Lambir National Park, it’s also around 40 minutes drive from Miri City. Both places are pretty accessible by car but not by public transport.

Where we stayed in Miri

Kingwood Boutique Hotel (Click here to check for latest hotel prices and book directly)

Awesome location, you have plenty of food choices just right outside of your hotel. There is a shopping mall with a supermarket just 5 minutes walk away as well. The rooms were small but very cozy. Super comfortable beds! Overall we really enjoyed staying in this hotel!

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How to book the above tours

We booked our tour with Amazing Borneo and they arranged for our accommodation, guide and transport in Miri! Great service, highly recommend them to anyone looking for a reliable and trustworthy agency in Sarawak.

Our Experience on Hiking The Pinnacles in Mulu

Our Experience on Hiking The Pinnacles in Mulu

Hiking the Pinnacles was honestly one of the most challenging but yet fun climb that we’ve ever experienced before! Most people also say that this hike is tougher than Mt Kinabalu! Read on to find out why!

The trek started off with a “relaxing” boat ride, thankfully our boatmen were strong enough to pull us across the shallow waters! But we heard that during low tide season, it’s worse than this! And you will have to be prepared to get out of your boat and help pull the boat. We could practically hear the bottom of the boat scraping the rocks!

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Our strong boatmen pulling us across the shallow waters!

After the 30 minutes boat ride, we reached the start point of the trek. Apparently there are no other routes to this start point besides taking the boat. From here, it’s a 9km jungle trek to Camp 5.

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Start of the jungle trek to Camp 5!

The trek was fun as it’s not just a boring, straight and flat road but instead, there are shaky nerve wrecking bridge crossings, undulating surfaces due to protruding overgrown tree roots or rocks and vertical rock faces that we had to climb using all 4 limbs.

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It took us around 3 hours to get to Camp 5. When we arrived, the first thing that we did was to jump into the freezing cold river! That was one of the best feeling ever, definitely a must after a tiring, hot and sweaty trek!

Tip: Swim at the far end nearer to the bridge, the water there is deeper and cleaner. We were too lazy to walk there though and simply just swam where it was closest to our room.

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Best ever, jumping into an icy cold river right after an arduous trek!

If you’re planning on trekking the pinnacles without a guide, do note that you will have to pack your own food. There’s a kitchen available for you to cook your own food. Alternatively, you can also order food from the staff to cook for you. You can also refill your bottles with drinkable for free at Camp 5.

Tip: Bring your own snacks to camp 5, they have a small store there but their selection is extremely limited and of course much more expensive.

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Spacious kitchen at Camp 5

For us we were on a tour with Amazing Borneo and our guide prepared our food 🙂 Feeling so pampered and loved!

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Sumptuous meal provided by our guide!

As for sleeping facilities, the rooms were very basic and bare. Basically the only thing provided was a thin mat, which was sufficient actually. If you’d like you can bring your own sleeping bag, but that would also mean extra weight while trekking. You can choose to rent a mosquito net too but we can’t be bothered to. The sandflies there were nasty though!

Tip: A must bring – insect repellent! Poor Daniel had sandfly bites all over his arms and legs!

We forgot to take photos of the shower facilities, but we were very impressed by the cleanliness and the infrastructure of the toilets at Camp 5! Way better than a lot of the other jungle trek camps that we’ve been to!

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Our cozy and humble abode for the night

If you’re not too tired at night, do check out the stars at Camp 5! There was hardly any light pollution and the milky way was really obvious that night we were there!

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Dramatic gorgeous starry night <3

And the next morning, try to catch the sunrise if you can!

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Witnessing the first light of dawn over the still waters.

We woke up at about 5.30am to get ready for our pinnacles trek the next day. While others were simply having tea and biscuits for breakfast, we were having freshly handmade roti prata that will fuel us for the upcoming challenging trek!

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Homemade roti prata for breakfast! Yummy!

From Camp 5 to the viewing point of the Pinnacles, the trail is about 2.4km in length and around 1,200m ascend in altitude. It’s a one day trek where you will head up in the morning, view the Pinnacles and then head back down to Camp5 before it gets dark.

The first hour will be to the mini pinnacles and if you can’t reach in 1 hour, your guide will likely ask you to go back down. I was pretty stressed out by this at first as I’ve heard from the other trekkers that it’s really not that easy. Thank god we made it in less than 45 minutes!

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Resting at the first stop – “mini pinnacles”

Of course being a jungle trek, there was so much of nature and wildlife to appreciate! Personally I hate creepy crawlies, but these little cuties were so pretty that they don’t disgust me as much anymore!

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Second tiniest frog in the world!

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What a pretty millipede! The ones in Singapore are all brown and slimy!

The second half of the journey was even more challenging with a lot of vertical rock faces that we had to climb using ropes, ladders and our 4 limbs.

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You have to be really careful when hiking up as there are a lot of booby traps and you could easily sprain your ankle! Furthermore with such a steep ascend in one day, it’s no surprise that you already feel like your legs no longer belong to you.

Tip: Wear a pair of light trek shoes with good grip! TNF trek shoes never fail to disappoint us. The grip is excellent and perfect for rough terrains like this! We were both wearing the TNF Ultra Hike II Mid GTX. High cut shoes are always better as they provide better support for your ankle. Also they’re waterproof! Can’t imagine how slippery this trek would be if it rains!

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A total of 16 ladders before reaching the view point!

After 3 hours of hardcore steep ascend and 16 vertical ladders, we’re finally here at the top to get the best view of the Pinnacles! No regrets! According to our guide, apparently only 30% of the people get to make it to this point!

Tip: Wear light weight clothes when climbing the Pinnacles and preferably long pants to avoid getting your legs scraped by the razor sharp rocks! We really love the TNF Trekker II Pant-AP long pants as it’s very stretchy and it dries really quickly! Despite us sweating like crazy while climbing, our legs don’t feel stuffy at all.

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Us at the Pinnacles! Woohoo! We made it! 😀

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Most bizarre landscape ever with these razor sharp limestone spikes!

We had about 30-45 minutes to enjoy the Pinnacles view and to have our lunch at the same time before making our way back down to camp 5. Heading down was actually tougher than going up! Our knees and thighs were really screaming in pain after we were done with this trek.

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Waiting for the boat to bring us back to the park headquarters.

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Made a new friend with this little cutie while waiting for the boat!

Essential Information

Where we stayed at Mulu

Our first night was at Mulu Marriot Resort which was nicely tucked deep inside the greens! The night we were there, the sound made by the cicadas was deafening! It was sooooo loud! Apparently it’s the mating season now for the cicadas. Thankfully you can’t really hear them when you’re in the room. For the rest of the nights during the pinnacle trek, we were staying at Camp 5.

Tip: Dinner isn’t provided as part of the room package though. If you’re hungry and on a budget, you can check out the cheaper cafe located right opposite the river of Marriot Resort.

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Our pretty room at the Mulu Marriort Resort

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Ahhh, super beautiful room! Sad that we only get to stay one night here!

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View of the forest while you take a shower!

How did we get here

We took the MAS flight from Miri to get to Mulu. It was a really short 30 minutes flight.

How to book the above tour

The above Pinnacles trek is actually part of a 4D3N tour with Amazing Borneo at Mulu. The first day was to see the Show Caves (namely the Deer Cave and the Lang Cave) and the second day was to see Clear Water Cave and Wind Cave before heading for the pinnacles trek. This tour included a one night stay at Marriot too! If it’s possible, try to arrange Marriot on the last night instead of the first night so that at least you can have a well deserving night stay after your arduous pinnacles trek.

Sunrise Odyssey