Travelogue

6 Stunning Caves In Sarawak that you never knew could exist

6 Stunning Caves In Sarawak that you never knew could exist

Being huge fans of caves, we were thrilled to be able to visit so many of them in Sarawak. Each cave has its own unique characteristic and flavour, such that we guarantee you won’t be bored even after visiting your 5th cave! Here’s a list of our favourite caves in Sarawak!

1. The Magical Fairy Cave

When we first stepped into the Fairy Cave, we were in awe of the greens inside the cave!  The cave was humongous! There were quite a number of steps to be climbed before reaching the cave entrance, but it’s really worth it.

Fun fact: The cave was named after this fairy statue that was built inside the cave where the locals actually come to pray to it.

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Feels like a scene out of a fairy tale!

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The inner part of the Fairy Cave

2. Deer Cave – Home of a Million Bats

Deer Cave located at Mulu in Sarawak, is the largest cave passage in the world and also the home to millions of bats. If you notice in the photo, that black patch on the cave ceiling, those are actually bats that are resting!

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Largest passage way cave in the world!

Fun Fact: Every day between 5-7pm if the weather is fine, 2-3 million bats will fly out of the Deer Cave in search for food! They will usually fly in a spiral manner like in the photo below as an attempt to distract and confuse their predator, the hawks! We were lucky to have witnessed this interesting phenomenon at about 6.30pm just before it turned dark.

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Witnessing the bat exodus outside the Deer Cave in Mulu!

3. Lang Cave – The Surreal Jellyfish Empire

The Lang Cave is smaller in comparison with the Deer Cave, but the beauty lies in the natural formation of its stalagmites and stalactites. There was a section that really resembled tons of jellyfishes!

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4. Clear Water Cave – Literally, Clear Water

This cave was special because there is actually a river flowing through the cave! Also, the water was really really clear! It felt so inviting to head down for a swim! Apparently you can do adventure caving in this cave, something that we were really keen in but unfortunately we did not have the luxury of time. We will definitely be back to try the adventure caving here one day!

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Beautiful cave with a super clear river flowing within the cave

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Clear Water Cave

5. Wind Cave (In Mulu) – Of Beautiful Cavern Architecture

It’s amazing how beautiful natural architecture is, just look at the beautiful rock formations inside of the Wind Cave in Mulu. A lot of the stalactites and stalagmites have reached each other and eventually formed a long pole structure.

Fun fact: A stalactite/stalagmite takes more than a 1,000 years just to grow 10cm. Can you imagine how old the cave is for such massive structures to be formed?!

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Stunning natural rock formation in Wind Cave (Mulu)

6. Niah Cave – Birdnest Hunters

We were surprised to hear that till date, the locals in Niah are still practising the traditional methods of extracting the bird nests from the cave ceilings! Particularly in Niah Cave, you will see a lot of long wooden planks hanging from the ceiling. These thin wooden planks were meant for the locals to climb up to the ceiling (without any harness or safety equipment), and to retrieve those swiftlets’ nests!

Fun Fact: Each wooden pole belongs to 1 family and you can akin this to a plot of farm land where different sections have been distributed to different families and that section of the cave is basically their livelihood.

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Watch the bird nest hunter in action at Gorgeous Niah Cave

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How to get to the caves:

There is no public transport to the caves above and you will have to charter your own private transport. We booked our tours with Amazing Borneo and generally it was a fuss free experience! We highly recommend them if you’re looking for a reputable and trustworthy agency in Sarawak.

10 Delicacies Worth Flying To Sarawak For

10 Delicacies Worth Flying To Sarawak For

If you’re a foodie, you will definitely enjoy feasting in Sarawak! Cheap and delicious! Here are 10 must try local dishes if you’re ever visiting Sarawak!

1. Oyster Pancake

Similar to the fried oyster egg in Singapore, but theirs is a crispy pancake instead of the starchy egg. Not too bad, worth a try, an interesting twist to the oyster egg.

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Oyster egg? No, it’s oyster pancake!

2. Teh C Peng Special (3 Layered Tea)

This is the bomb! Super nice! Somewhat similar to our teh peng in Singapore, except that they use palm sugar instead of condensed milk. It’s so nice that we bought back a whole bottle of the palm sugar to make our own teh c peng special.

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A MUST TRY!

3. Sarawak Laksa

This is one of Sarawak’s most popular local dishes. We personally didn’t really like it that much, taste abit like mee siam? There’s no coconut milk in the Sarawak laksa unlike the laksa in Singapore. But still, you have to try it to understand why it’s so popular!

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Sarawak laksa! Sadly no hum though 🙁

4. Mani Chai with Eggs

My favourite vegetable dish in Sarawak, super yummy! Seems like it’s a local favourite too? Every time we dine with a local, they will definitely order this dish for us.

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Fried mani chai with eggs! Yums!

5. Kek Lapis

Look at that rainbow assortment of colours! If you’ve a sweet tooth, then you definitely must try this. They are so creative and they actually came up with more than 30 different flavours! These kek lapis are usually home baked and they have interesting flavours such as bandung, horlicks, durian, strawberry cheesecake and a lot more. Normally they will offer you this sampling tray where you can try every single flavour before buying!

Tip: Ask your driver to take you to the local home bakery across the waterfront in Kuching, they bake the best kek lapis according to our guide!

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Too pretty to resist!

6. Street Market Snacks

If you visit a local market in Kuching, you will definitely find these vendors selling all sorts of fried snacks and kuehs. They’re absolutely delicious and also cheap! Usually it’ll cost you only 1 RM for 3 pieces!

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I really love the sweet kuehs! My favourite!

7. Chicken In Bamboo

Another local delicacy where they will put the chicken meat inside the bamboo and cook it over the fire. The chicken meat ends up really soft and tender with the meat sliding off the bones easily. They usually cook it with their local wild ginger which taste different from the ginger here in Singapore also.

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Chicken in Bamboo!

8. Kolo Mee

This is definitely a must try! The noodles taste really springy and tasty! Actually it tastes similar to wonton mee in Singapore, but the noodles is slightly different. Also according to a local, the more “wrinkly” the noodles, the better it is!

Tip: the best kolo mee can be found in the open air market in Kuching!

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Our favourite – kolo mee!

9. Sago Worms

YUMMMMYYYYYY! haha, hey the worms are not cheap you know. 1 basket of sago worms can get you 3 bowls of kolo mee! So well, Daniel’s usually the more daring one especially when experimenting with exotic food like this. And yes, he ate a huge juicy squirming worm alive!! EEEWWW! He said that it tasted like grapes except without the sweetness. I know, what a comparison right, I’ll never be able to look at grapes in the same way ever again.

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Anybody hungry or craving for these juicy babies?!

10. Ais Krim Bergula Apong

Apparently this ice cream is really famous in Kuching! The queue was always so long regardless of the time that we were there! They serve home made ice cream (texture felt like yoghurt) and drizzle gula apong syrup all over it. You can also choose a topping (cornflakes, cookies or peanuts) to go with it.

Tip: The shop at the open air market should be not bad, the queue is always super long even at 10pm on a random weekday night!

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Ais Krim Gula Apong!

Did we miss out any? Do share with us in the comments below if your favourite Sarawak food is not listed above! 🙂

7 Reasons Why You’ll Definitely Fall In Love With Kuching

7 Reasons Why You’ll Definitely Fall In Love With Kuching

Kuching, a natural tropical playground on its doorstep. For all nature and wildlife lovers, it will be a challenge to not fall in love with this amazing city.

1. You get to experience nature at its best in Bako National Park

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At the entrance of Bako National Park! Can you guess what the tourists were looking at?

Being one of the oldest national park in Sarawak, this place is full of wildlife wonders and a great place for avid trekkers. This park is also home to more than 250 rare species of the proboscis monkeys which can only be found in Borneo.

There are 18 routes in total ranging from a 30mins walk to an 8 hour trek. Due to time constraint, we did the Telok Paku trail which was only around 1 hour (one way) to the end. The terrain was quite challenging as you will have to cross over protruding overgrown roots and to clamber over undulating rocks and tree branches.

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For the geology lovers, you will appreciate the sea stack that has been formed over years of erosion. Known as the “Serpent Rock“, you can get a close up view of it via a boat ride from the beach at the end of the Telok Paku Trail.

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Famous “Serpent Rock” at Bako National Park!

It takes about an hour drive from Kuching City to Bako National Park. There is also accommodation available at the park if you’re keen on staying overnight. 

2. You get a chance to spot the Rafflesia Flower at Gunang Gading National Park

The Rafflesia flower is one of the rarest flowers in the world and it can be sighted at Gunung Gading National Park! A fully bloomed Rafflesia can grow up to 1 metre in diametre which is huge! Unfortunately it’s really difficult to see them as they take up to 9 months to blossom from a bud to a fully bloomed flower and have a life span of only 6-7 days!

We only managed to see a 3 month old bud when we were there. The bud is extremely delicate as it’s food to a lot of animals and most don’t survive till a full bloom 🙁 Also, apparently a fully bloomed Rafflesia gives off a smelly rotten meat smell, but we haven’t had the chance to smell that yet.

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Can you spot the big black bud of the Rafflesia?

Credits: http://images.guidetrip.com/

A fully bloomed Rafflesia. Photo credits: http://images.guidetrip.com/

But other than the Rafflesia, it’s still a great place for trekking and to enjoy moments of solitude surrounded by nature. There were longer treks available which lead up to the waterfall.

The Gunang Gading National Park is about an hour drive from Kuching City and it’s near the Fairy Cave & Wind Cave. We would recommend to combine both activities in the same day. 

3. You can get up-close with orangutans at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

This has gotta be one of our highlights of the trip! We really enjoyed watching the orangutans in action up close while being in a habitat as real as possible. The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is a rehabilitation centre for the orphaned or injured orangutans and once they are well enough, they will be released back into the wild.

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The trip began with a short trek into the forest where the feeding platform is. The ranger will then start taking bunches of bananas, coconuts while making a tarzan call at the same time to attract the orangutans. Not too longer after, we saw Ritchie (second largest male orangutan in Semenggoh) climbing the rope and greedily making its way towards to feeding platform.

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A mother orangutan and her baby soon began making their way to the fruits too.

Fun fact: Every orangutan builds 2-3 new nests everyday which are usually high up in the canopy, about 12-18m above the forest ground! They too are similar to human beings and dislike sleeping in soiled resting areas!

Go early around 8.30am to witness the active orangutans during their feeding session. It took us about an hour drive to get here from Kuching. 

4. You get to understand the local traditions at the Sarawak Cultural Village

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Traditional dwelling of the local ethnic group in Sarawak

Albeit being quite touristy, it’s still quite an eye-opener and a great introduction to all the different ethnic groups in Sarawak and the type of longhouses that they stay in. The ethnic groups consists of the Malays, Chinese, Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau and other minor tribes living together in harmony in Sarawak.

I used to be quite ignorant and assumed that there are only Malays or Chinese living in Malaysia! And interestingly, according to our local guide, 44% of the population in Sarawak are Christians!

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Freshly made locals snacks available for sale at each station! A must try!

Each ethnic group has their own traditions and believes. The Ibans, comprising the largest percentage of Sarawak’s population, are famous for being excellent headhunters. They used to collect human skulls and hang them high up in their living room as a record of their past victories. The skulls will then be smoked for 24 hours non stop because of their superstitious belief.

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Inside the living room of a Iban longhouse, see that smoke? The human skulls used to be hung above it.

The purpose of this cultural village was to preserve and showcase Sarawak’s cultural heritage to the rest of the world. At the Cultural Village, you will receive a passport where you can get it stamped at each station (longhouse) and you can keep it as a souvenir once you’re done. There is also a 45mins theatre performance which demonstrates the local’s way of living as well as their cultural dance.

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Entertaining cultural performances put up by the locals

We stayed at the Damai Beach Resort which was less than 5 minutes away from the Sarawak Cultural Village. Very cozy resort with a great view of the beach! It takes about 45minutes drive from Kuching to get here. 

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Thank you Damai Beach Resort for hosting us!

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Very comfy and spacious rooms

5. You get to visit a traditional longhouse

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A authentic longhouse that has 30 different families living in it together!

A longhouse is the traditional housing of the local people and even up till today, there are still people living in longhouses. It’s literally a really long house made up of 30-50 rooms with a family staying in each room. There is a communal walkway outside the rooms for the families to interact and chill together.

Sometimes they will have a meal together and each family will contribute their own food and resources, kinda similar to pot luck. Also if any of the families need help, the rest of the families will chip in and help each other. We really appreciated this communal style of living, feels like everyone is very eager to help and share with one another.

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A traditional welcome dance by the local!

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Trying out a blowpipe, not easy man! Amazing how they used to hunt with this!

From Batang Ai Resort, we took a long boat to the traditional Iban Longhouse for a lunch visit. If you’re travelling on your own or if you guide forgets, please remember to bring a gift for the children of the longhouse (not forgetting that there are at least 30 families living there!).

Usually for the gift, it’s advisable to get multi-pack snacks so that they can be easily distributed to each family. Apparently some tourists brought only 1 ball as a gift and you can imagine, all the children fighting over that 1 ball!

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Distribution of the gifts from tourists to the 30 families living in this longhouse

Tip: Do remember to slap on lots and lots of sunblock whenever you’re on a long boat! No shade at all and with the unrelenting sun, you can be assured of a more than beautiful tan once you get off the boat.

Trekking is also available at the vicinity of the longhouse but as we didn’t have the luxury of time, we only did a really short 30 mins trek. But otherwise, there are longer treks available as well if you’re planning on spending more time at the longhouse. Do wear long pants as there are many fish bone ferns along the trek which can cause some nasty scratches!

We stayed at Aiman Batang Ai Resort & Retreat, which was really remote and tranquil. It took us 5 hours drive to get here from Kuching. The resort was built to resemble a longhouse. Do check out the amazing sunset view at the lake! 

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At Batang Ai resort, tucked away from the hustle bustle of the city!

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Super cozy room!

6. Explore the Mystical Fairy Cave and Wind Cave

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Inside the magical Fairy Cave

We are both cave lovers and always enjoyed exploring different caves whenever we travel. We’ve seen numerous caves during our past travels, but the caves here in Sarawak are nothing like the ones we’ve seen before.

There is a flight of stairs to climb before reaching the entrance of the fairy cave. The cave is really huge and what we liked most about it was that it felt very untouched. There isn’t any artificial light installed within the cave and visibility was dependent on natural sunlight and our torches. Apparently the local people used to visit the cave to pray to the Guan Yin statue that has been formed by the stalactites. The people also built this small fairy statue inside the cave and they worship it too.

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Fairy statue in the middle of the Fairy Cave where the locals used to worship

For the wind cave, it was definitely much smaller than the fairy cave and had lower ceilings. The ceilings were so low that you could easily spot the bats! Some of them were literally just in front of your eyes! Quite an interesting experience if you’ve never seen bats up-close before.

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Close up of the bats! They’re quite cute aren’t they?!

It took us about an hour drive to get here from Kuching and you can actually visit the caves together with a visit to the Gunang Gading National Park in the same day since they’re both located nearby. 

7. Delight Your Taste Buds With Palactable Local Food

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Absolutely delicious kolo mee!! Ahhhh!!!

This has gotta be my highlight of Kuching! The food here in Sarawak is AMAZING! I especially love their kolo mee and the famous 3 layered tea (teh c peng special). It’s similar to the teh peng in Singapore but they use palm sugar instead of condensed milk. Just typing this now is enough to make me salivate. Sarawak is also very famous for their laksa which tastes very similar to mee siam in Singapore. We still prefer our Singapore laksa which has more coconut oil. Of course there is a lot more must try local food which deserves a post on its own (coming soon)!

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The must try 3 layered tea in Sarawak!

Essential Information

Where we stayed in Kuching

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We stayed at Riverside Majestic Hotel which was just 5 mins away from the waterfront!

Its location was excellent as it’s just opposite the river and walking distance to the main bazaar, open air market, etc. The rooms were extremely comfy and the food was delicious! You have to try their buffet dinner which costs only about MYR99 per pax which works out to S$30. The buffet spread was very wide and they serve from Japanese food to local traditional food!

How did we get here from Singapore

We flew via Malaysia Airlines from Singapore direct to Kuching. The flight duration was only 1 hour 25 minutes.

How did we arrange the above tours

Most of the above places were really difficult to get there on your own as there’s hardly any public transport. You will probably have to charter your own taxi if you’re planning on getting there yourself. We did the tours with Amazing Borneo who settled everything from the accommodation to getting us to the attractions. This is our third time with Amazing Borneo and their service has never failed to disappoint us.

Thank you Amazing Borneo for arranging the tours in Sarawak for us! 

 

Top 5 Most Overrated Cities in Turkey That You Should Not Visit

Top 5 Most Overrated Cities in Turkey That You Should Not Visit

Turkey is definitely one of the most beautiful countries that we have ever gone to. The following cities have been highly raved by many and indeed, they’ve lived up to their hype.

1. Stunning Istanbul

Istanbul, the charming city connecting both Europe and Asia. Although it’s said to be over-commercialised by many, we really enjoyed our time in Istanbul! We were so impressed by the grandeur and complexity of the magnificent mosques’ architecture.

Fun fact: The Blue Mosque’s real name is actually Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It’s nick named Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles adorning the interior of the mosque. 

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Gina in awe of the beautiful Blue Mosque in Istanbul

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We were really blown away by the amazing architecture of the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

2. Captivating Cappadocia

Cappadocia, our ultimate favourite out of all the places that we’ve been to in Turkey! How can anyone not fall in love with Cappadocia? Most of all, we really enjoyed staying in the cave hotel and hiking in the valleys! The bizarre lunar landscape was what captivated us the most.

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Staying in Gamirasu Cave hotel was one of best hotel experiences ever!

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The famous 3 sisters rock of Cappadocia!

3. Romantic Pammukale

Sadly though, this place has become really popular with tourists over the recent years and the original white cotton castle of Turkey has now become somewhat murkish and tainted. But still, it’s really pretty and romantic!

Tip: Head there during the late afternoon and enjoy the sunset while the crowd dies down. 

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Enjoying the sunset at the Cotton Castle of Turkey!

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During certain timings of the day, the pools will appear bluish in colour against the white calcium structures!

4. Ancient Ephesus

All history buffs will love Ephesus, the ancient city that was built back in the 10th century BC! This place is mostly ruins but it was fun imagining how bustling it must have used to be.

Tip: If you have the budget, it might be worth getting a guide to help makes sense of all the ruins. We went without one and was quite lost after awhile. 

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The majestic ancient ‘Library of Celsus’ in Ephesus

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This used to be an 1,500 seats indoor theatre with a wooden roof!

5. Gorgeous Oludeniz

A little touristy, but hey, the views from above were UH-MAZINGGG! We highly recommend paragliding in Oludeniz, just check out the unbelievably blue waters. A pity it was still too cold for us to swim in the sea when we were there.

Tip: Visit Oludeniz during Spring/Summer, the beaches would probably be amazing to swim in during that period!

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Paragliding in Oludeniz – highly recommended!

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Starting the Lycian Way trek from Oludeniz

So there you go, there’s a reason why the above cities have been overrated by tons of travellers. You be your own judge and decide if you’d still want to visit them! You can surely find any of the above cities in any standard tour package for Turkey. But if you have time, don’t miss out on the hidden gems off the beaten path of Turkey that most people don’t know about!

Hiking Love Valley and Rose/Red Valley in Cappadocia

Hiking Love Valley and Rose/Red Valley in Cappadocia

Cappaddocia’s lunar landscape was such a haven for hiking enthusiasts like us! Due to time constraint, we had to choose which valley to hike and we settled on Love Valley and Rose/Red Valley. We had absolutely no regrets and both valleys were extremely gorgeous!

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We started off our hike with Love Valley which was very easily accessible from Goreme itself. The moment we entered the Love Valley, we understood how its name came about. Just look at this huge interesting rock structures that resembles…..an intimate part of the male. Haha. There were like 100 of these structures of different sizes and shapes! It was such an interesting experience hiking in Love Valley!

Tip: For beginner hikers or families with young children, Love Valley would be a great place!

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What a nice view of……cute mushroom rock structures!

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There is also a hut for you to rest mid way while hiking at the Love Valley.DCIM103GOPRO

From the Love Valley, you can continue on trekking towards the Red/Rose Valley. It took us around 6 hours to complete  both Love Valley and Rose Valley. It forms a nice loop back to Goreme.

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The famous 3 Sisters Rock

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The ever gorgeous Rose Valley, check out the beautiful varying colour tones of sedimentary rock!

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We really enjoyed hiking the Rose/Red Valley as there were so many interesting caves to explore! Some caves had a really nice carved interior, probably used to be a church in the past.

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Oh and fun fact of the day, we met this 70 years old man from China and his stamina was UH-MAZING! We met him when we were resting mid way at Love Valley and he decided to join us for Red/Rose Valley. The directional signs weren’t clear and all he had was his paper map! It was kinda embarrassing when he walked upslope faster than us and he did not even appear tired!

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Towards the evening, one if the best things ever happened to us! Suddenly we heard this loud airy sound and when we turned around, we were greeted by huge hot air balloons rising gracefully right in front of our eyes!

Tip: Start your trek around mid day from Love Valley and hike towards Rose Valley. Towards the end of Rose Valley, you will be able to see hot air balloons rising!

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No wonder people say that Turkey is one of the best places to take a hot air balloon ride. Unfortunately we weren’t blessed with good weather when it was our turn to take the ride 🙁

Tip: Taking the hot air balloon in Cappadocia is highly recommended!

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Ending our trek with a breathtaking view of the hot air balloons rising over Cappadocia

Overall, we really enjoyed hiking in the valleys of Cappadocia! We just wished we had more time to explore all of the other valleys as well. Furthermore, it’s free! 🙂 Definitely a must do if you’re thinking of heading to Cappadocia!

 

10 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Myanmar Now

10 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Myanmar Now

We’ve covered almost the whole of South East Asia and our favourite is still Myanmar. There’s just something so pure and pristine about this beautiful country that it’s hard to describe in words. You have to travel to Myanmar to understand what we’re talking about.

1. Enjoy the most amazing sunrise/sunset ever

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Sunset at Ubein Bridge in Mandalay. Where else can you enjoy a sunset as gorgeous as this?!

2. Burmese are the friendliest and most genuine people ever

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With the sweet burmese girls that we made friends with in Mandalay

3. The best place for a hot air balloon ride

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Yes it’s commercialised, but hey, look at the view! It’s unbeatable!

4. Experience the most authentic village trek and homestay

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Village trek and homestay in Hsipaw

5. Challenge yourself and ride the highest railway ever in SEA

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On board the Goteik Viaduct, the highest railway train in SEA. Most nerve wrecking 2 min ever!

6. Be awed by the splendid Burmese architecture

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Temple in Mandalay

7. Explore Yangon via the local 3 hr train ride for $1 only!

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Most value for money activity! Hop off any station and continue exploring!

8. It goes easy on your pocket

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There are so many things to do in Myanmar that don’t require a single cent

9. Immerse yourself in the local Burmese culture

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A traditional ceremony where the young boys become monks

10. So if not now, then when?!

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What are you waiting for? Hope this post managed to inspire you to travel to Myanmar next!

Why You Should Travel Off The Beaten Path In Turkey

Why You Should Travel Off The Beaten Path In Turkey

Turkey has always been a top travellers’ destination, but most have only been to the more popular places like Cappadocia, Esphesus, Pammukale, etc. Those places are beautiful too, but hey, the eastern side of Turkey is also extremely picturesque and maybe even more appealing due to the void of tourists. Here’s why you should travel the off beaten path in Turkey.

Here’s a map showing the places that people don’t usually travel to in Turkey. But to us, they’re places worth going if you can spare the time!

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The eerie ruins of Ani, the ancient capital of Armenia

Ani at Kars used to be the Capital of Armenia more than 1,000 years ago and it was also known as the “City of a Thousand Churches”! The vast history and significance of this place is incredible and profound. It was such an intense moment for us when we traipsed through the remnants of this once bustling city, imagining how it would have looked like during its heyday and glory.

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The grand Ishak Pasha Palace of Dogubayazit

This palace literally took our breath away the moment we caught sight of it. It was so beautiful! This palace is also a great example of exquisite Ottoman architecture.

Tip: Hitch a ride to the top and walk down after you’re done! 

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Celebrating Newroz in Van & Diyarbakir

Newroz is a traditional new year celebration of the Kurds which falls on the first day of Spring. We were walking towards the castle in Van when suddenly a colourful crowd of people decked mostly in the 3 primary colours, red, green and yellow, started running in the opposite direction from us. Thankfully a kind soul filled us in on what was happening and we could barely contain our excitement! It was our first time experiencing such a celebration and we decided to busk in the joy and fun with them!

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Explore the canyons of Hasankeyf before it gets flooded

This pretty town has quite a sad fate actually as it’s supposed to be entirely flooded by the Llisu Dam in 2016. Really pity the villagers living there as they would have to shift out and find themselves a new home. So visit this beautiful town while you still can before it vanishes!

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Marvel at the beehive houses of Harran

Harran is supposedly one of the oldest inhabited spots in the world and till date there are still people living here! The trademark of this place would be its beehive houses which are where the people live in. The conical shaped roofs led to its name and the reason behind it was that there used to be a shortage  of wood and hence they had to use mud to make bricks to form their roofs. Also because there were plenty of reusable bricks from the ruins nearby.

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Trek Mt Nemrut to witness the life size royal tomb statues

The summit of Nemrut that you see in the photo below was actually man made! It was believed that the pre Roman local king ordered his men to build this small hill above his tomb where he was buried and to surround his tomb with life size statues to protect his tomb. Click here to read our full experience on hiking Mt Nemrut in winter!

Tip: I suffered from snow glare after this trek (meaning my eye balls got sun burnt). Wear sunglasses when trekking on snow!

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The surreal view of the “suspended” castle at Kizkalesi

This place really felt like a dream, imagine walking out towards the sea and witness the “floating castle'” which looks like it’s suspended in the middle of the sea! Where else can you get a view like this? You could actually rent this dolphin-like boat where you sort of pedal yourself to the castle which is only about 300m away. Well, we didn’t have the time as it was getting late already. So we we’re not really sure how it looks like from inside, but the view from the shore is already a killer!

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The other highlight in Kizkalesi is the Cave of Heaven and Hell. The photo below was taken inside the Chasm of Heaven. The only reason why they linked it to “Heaven” was because of the Chapel of Virgin Mary that was constructed right outside the cave. This cave as huge and it was quite fun exploring it. When we first entered, the lights weren’t turned on and it was almost pitch dark! The entire cave was about 200m long, 900m wide and 70m deep!

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And here is the Cave of Hell which you can’t go down to. It’s basically this huge sinkhole that has been created over the years by a passing river.

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The ancient ruins of the once thriving Anemurium City

This ancient city in Anamur existed back in the Hellenistic period (more than 2,000 years ago) and one can only imagine how this place must have been like back in its hey day glory! Despite being hit by several earthquakes, this place is still quite well preserved. Till date you could still see remnants of bath houses, a Roman theatre and some other buildings.

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The whirling dervishes of Konya

One of our most unforgettable moments of Turkey was witnessing the whirling dervishes of Konya in action. This was part of the Mevlevi worship ceremomy (also known as the sema) which is a ritual dance where the devotees were connecting with God. Apparently the most authentic and original sema is at Konya and it is free of charge at Konya’s Mevlana Cultural centre, every Sat at 7pm. We know that places like Istanbul charge a pretty hefty fee for the sema performances.

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Hopefully the above post is enough to inspire you to want to explore the less beaten paths of eastern Turkey!

 

Manukan Island – the ‘Maldives’ of Southeast Asia

Manukan Island – the ‘Maldives’ of Southeast Asia

For those beach lovers looking for a weekend getaway, look no further than your neighbouring country! White soft sands, crystal clear azure waters, gorgeous villas, the perfect relaxation beach holiday for you!

Easy to get there

There’s a direct flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu City and it only takes a 10 minutes ferry ride from the city to get to Manukan Island! As compared to some other islands, you have to take a 8-10 hours bus ride just to get there!

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Short 10 minutes ferry ride from the city to the island!

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Upon arrival, get greeted by paradise!

Delicious food that satisfies your taste buds

You can have your lunch at the BBQ buffet which serves really good grilled lamb, satay and even crab!

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Dinner was really good too! We dined at the restaurant that was next to the place where we had our BBQ lunch. The beef rendang here was really tender and tasty!

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The beef rendang is highly recommended!

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Buffet breakfast with a wide variety of choices.

Enjoy the luxury of your double storey dream villa

We were super impressed the moment we entered the villa, it was much larger than we expected! Although we only stayed 1 night here, we felt rejuvenated and well-rested. All ready and revved up to carry on the rest of our adventure in Sabah 🙂

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View of our villa at night

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First up, the living room!

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The really spacious toilet which comes with a personal jacuzzi!

We honestly had one of our best sleeps here! Especially when we just finished climbing Mt. Trusmadi, this sleep was really well needed.

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Extremely soft and comfy bed with so many pillows!

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The beautiful sea view right straight from our room’s balcony

Feast your eyes on the gorgeous sunset at the island

You have to hike a short 30-45 minutes to get to the sunset viewing point. Definitely worth the walk! 🙂

Tip: It’s a must to bring insect repellent if you’re planning to do this hike! Mosquitoes are desperate here! Daniel got bitten like crazy!

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Enjoying the sunset view at Manukan Island!

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Pretty clouds pattern formation around the beautiful sunset

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If you’re more daring, you can even climb down the rocks to get a different view! We didn’t bother to, but well, this family here definitely seem to be enjoying themselves.

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Enjoy the peace and quiet at your villa’s private beach

For residents staying at the villa, you’ll get to enjoy your own private beach. Quite a delight actually, considering that there are plenty of day-trippers but they will be at the other side of the beach.

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Peace and quiet at our own private beach!

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Night view of the beach

Plenty of beach activities for everyone to enjoy

You can choose to snorkel, dive, helmet diving, island hop or simply just relax at the beach and enjoy the sea breeze!

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Overall, we highly recommend Manukan Island to anyone who’s looking for a nearby beach getaway that’s not too commercialised. This is also a great place to rejuvenate yourselves especially for those that have just completed an intensive climb like Mt Kinabalu or Mt Trusmadi.

Essential information

How to get here
Direct flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu and then take a ferry (10 mins only) from either Jesselton Point or Sutra Harbour.

Where we stayed at
Manukan Island Resort, we stayed in the Hill Side Villa.

However if you prefer a fuss free experience, you can consider booking your package with Amazing Borneo and they will be able to help you book everything from the ferry tickets, accommodation, meals to activities. 

Which is your favourite nearby beach getaway? Share with us in the comments below!

Exploring Pulau Tiga, the Survivor Island

Exploring Pulau Tiga, the Survivor Island

Some of you might find this place familiar, because this was the exact same place that was used to film the first series of the Survivor tv show! So anyway, this place was quite a good breakaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here are our recommended things to do in Pulau Tiga, the Survivor Island!

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Will we survive the night….?

Hunt for the deadliest and most venomous snakes (not kidding)

So when our guide told us that we’ll be searching for the most venomous snake ever, I really thought he was kidding! But, nope. He was for real.

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Apparently we were searching for the Banded Sea Krait snake and they love to hide amongst the rocks near the sea. So that was where we were heading to…

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And we found it! Hidden in between 2 huge rocks. But according to our guide, these snakes were deadly but not aggressive. As long as you do not provoke it, you will be safe. We were considered quite lucky as we saw not 1 but almost 5 snakes in total! All in different locations of course.

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Deadly and extremely venomous Banded Sea Krait snake spotted!

Island hop and snorkel amongst the colourful corals and fishes

After checking out the scary snakes, we proceeded to snorkel in the beautiful clear blue waters nearby and it was amazing! So many colourful fishes!

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few seconds free diving! heheh

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Pamper yourself with a natural volcanic mud ‘spa’

Okay, this was definitely the highlight of Pulau Tiga! Omg, now we really understand why elephants or buffalos love rolling in mud so much. haha. It was such great fun! Because the mud was of a much higher density, we could easily float in it and not having to worry about sinking! Well, some of the locals say that the mud is really good for your face! And so….we coated a layer of mud mask on our face. haha

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Au naturel volcanic mud SPA!

Once you’re done having fun with the mud, it’s time to rinse it off in the sea!

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Artistic shot of us heading to the sea to rinse off all the mud!

It takes around 20 minutes to walk from the volcanic mud place to the sea. So by then, the mud on your body would have dried up and it does feel slightly uncomfortable. But once you jump into the sea, it feels so good! And the mud rinses off easily!

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The before shot

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The after shot! Shiok! Mud free us! Clean and nice 🙂

Chill and enjoy the buffet meals

Lunch and dinner will be provided if you stay a night at the Pulau Tiga resort. And we must say, the food was really not bad at all! We were quite impressed with the spread and looked forward the the meals!

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Anyway, here are some pictures of our accommodation at Pulau Tiga. Pretty basic but decent. Very spacious in fact and it was quite funny watching the monkeys from our window.

Tip: Never leave your windows/door open when you leave your room! The mischievous monkeys will enter your room and you don’t know what they’ll do with your belongings! 

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Basic but decent accommodation at Pulau Tiga

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The interior of our room at Pulau Tiga

Essential Information

We booked our tour with Amazing Borneo where they helped us coordinate the land transfer, ferry ticket bookings, accommodation and activities. It’s quite hard to do this on your own as the ferry is around 2 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu city. From the ferry terminal, it takes only about 30 mins to reach Pulau Tiga island!

Have you been to Pulau Tiga before? What do you of this place as a nearby getaway destination for Singaporeans? Share with us your comments below!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Our 1 Year Travel

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Our 1 Year Travel

After our return from our 1 year travel ‘Footprints Across Asia‘, we were bombarded by a slew of questions from our friends, family members and readers. So we decided to collate all the most commonly asked questions into this post for those that are curious 🙂

1. What was our most dangerous moment?

Our most risky situation was probably when we went on an unguided trek in Kyrgyzstan and it started to snow really heavily. We could hardly see clearly with the snow constantly hitting against our eyes and face! We really thought we wouldn’t be able to make it to our end point, but well, we were kinda of stuck in the middle and there was no turning back.

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Trekking unguided in a blizzard in Kyrgyzstan – Checked!

Actually the real danger was not the blizzard, but the part where we hitchhiked with a bunch of woodcutters. We didn’t think much at that point of time as we thought anything was better than trying to trek in this blizzard. But….after 5 mins, they stopped for a break at their lodge where we had tea and some bread. Just kinda scary now when we look at it in hindsight. Us alone in the middle of the mountains with a group of men in their lodge…hmmmm. Check out our full story on our most dangerous trek to Altyn Arashan and bumping into unexpected visitors.

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Hitchhiking with a bunch of woodcutters in a middle of a snow storm – checked!

2. What was the route that we took for our 1 year travel

We wanted to do an East to West trip where we will get to experience both spectrum of cultures, religion and history. That was how we decided to start in China and to travel towards the west to Turkey. Also, we wanted to do an overland trip where we skipped the planes and crossed borders instead to get from one country to another.

Overall we covered 12 countries in total, averaging about a month at each place. China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Greece. Check out our highlights of each country here!

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The eerie remains of the once thriving Aral Sea in Uzbekistan

3. Did we encounter any setbacks?

Of course we did! Aplenty in fact. But ultimately it’s really how you deal with it. Not just when you travel, but in life in general. We were less than 2 months in our journey when Daniel started experiencing excruciating pain in his left lower jaw. It caused him so much pain that it started giving him migraines. I felt so helpless looking at him in pain.

We were in Inner Mongolia then and thankfully it’s still part of China and the locals spoke Chinese. So in the end we visited the local dentist who eventually advised that Daniel should extract his infected wisdom tooth. So yes, Daniel had his wisdom tooth extracted in Inner Mongolia!

On a side note, it was really cheap! It only cost him $50 to remove 1 wisdom tooth which would have cost $900 in Singapore! But then again, Daniel said that the extraction was really painful! Compared to my experience in Singapore which was almost pain-free!

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Wisdom tooth extraction in Inner Mongolia – checked!

This is me in the photo below, bedridden for 2 days. I was blind for 2 days! It was horrible and scary! And all because I stupidly went trekking for 8 hours on snow without any sunglasses to protect my eyes from the snow glare! So yes, my eyeballs were kinda of fried from the rays that were reflected back into my eyes.

Especially at night when I slept, my eyes just kept tearing and the next morning, my eyes would have swelled up so badly that I couldn’t even open them for a second. Any slight glimmer of light would cause a searing pain in my eyes. I just basically slept for 2 whole days straight, waking up only to have my meals and to answer nature calls . Thankfully my eye sight was fully restored after the 3rd day. What a fright.

Tip: Always wear eye protection when trekking on snow for long hours! 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays get reflected back into the eyes which makes it much easier for your eyes to get burnt!

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Lesson learnt – never trek in snow without sunglasses!

4. How much did we spend in total?

We spent about S$10,000 each for the entire 10 months for 12 countries, averaging about less than S$40 per person per day. As you can see from the chart below, we spent the least on food. In fact, on most days we merely survived on bread. Check out our post on why travelling budget is not for everyone!

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5. Did we fight?

Which couple does not fight? But I guess we’re considered quite fortunate because we quarrel a lot less as compared to other couples. Throughout our entire 10 months of facing each other 24/7 while travelling, we didn’t have any major argument but of course we had our fair share of minor tiffs.

But that also doesn’t come easy. Both of us had to put in effort and to meet each other halfway. Especially when travelling, we have nowhere else to run to when we face any problem between us and we’re forced to settle whatever issue we have with each other face to face. We find that travelling helps build a much stronger relationship based on brutal trust and honesty between us and it definitely brought us much closer together. Read our post on 10 reasons why you should travel with your partner

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Enjoying the sunset at Pamukkale, the Cotton Candy Castle of Turkey

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Happiness is always better when it’s shared 🙂

6. How did we manage the language barrier?

In fact, the only country that we could understand the local language was when we were in China. For the rest of the countries, we were mostly communicating via elaborate pantomime. Also, you soon come to realise that you don’t need to speak each other’s language to feel the warmth and genuine compassion between both parties.

In the photo below, we were staying with a local family in Uzbekistan and the family members couldn’t speak English at all. Yet we felt a bond so strong that when we parted, the grandmother gave us such a warm hug that we felt like we knew them since forever!

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Breaking through the language barrier

When we were in Iran, we stayed with a local Iranian family and spent 5 days with them. Again, both sides couldn’t speak each other’s language (except for the father who could speak some basic English), but yet we felt so close to them. If you can look closer at the photo below, all 3 of us were holding hands while walking to the market.

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Love is a universal language

7. Which was our favourite country?

We both agreed that Iran left the strongest impression on us. Iran is a really interesting country, very different from whatever the media has portrayed it to be. The first city that we visited happened to be Mashhad, the holiest city in Iran. That really gave us a huge culture shock, but a pleasant one nonetheless.

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At the Mashhad, the holiest city of Iran

The people in Iran were extremely friendly, genuine and curious! We felt like celebrities when we were there! Every moment there will be someone asking us for a photo, or asking us what was our name, etc. We have never received such overwhelming attention in our lives before!

Iran felt very surreal too, a huge part of it was so pristine, untouched and void of tourists! The photo below was taken at Qeshm Island, which was in our opinion one of the most beautiful places that we’ve ever been at. Its natural geology formations were breathtaking!

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Blown away by this natural stunning beauty at Qeshm Island

8. What’s there to do at Central Asia?

To be honest, we also asked ourselves that question before we embarked on our Footprints Across Asia journey. We had no idea what’s there to do at Central Asia and we could hardly find any information about it online!

So us being the curious explorers, we just had to head there to find out for ourselves what exactly was there to do in Central Asia. And boy were we blown away. There are 5 “Stans” in total that make up Central Asia, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. There was just so much to do in each country and each “Stan” had its own characteristics and flavour. For example, Kyrgyzstan is really good for trekking and other outdoor activities such as skiing/snowboarding, while Uzbekistan is renowned for its awe-inspiring architecture. You have to visit each “Stan” to understand what we’re talking about!

Read our post here to find out more about the 5 “Stans”!

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Awe-inspiring architecture of Uzbekistan

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Standing right in front of the “Gates to Hell” – checked!

9. Is Iran safe?

It is definitely safe. Of course, there are perhaps certain areas in Iran that are still quite unstable and should be avoided. But generally most it is really safe and the locals were extremely helpful and friendly! We spent 30 days in Iran and it still ain’t enough! We wished we had more time to spare in Iran though. It’s very common to receive invites from locals to have tea with them or to even stay a night at their place! We had to turn down some of these offers due to time constraint.

Even as a female traveller, I felt that the Iranian men were generally very respectful towards females. Overall we didn’t encounter any “danger” in Iran and had only positive experiences! 🙂

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Iranians – the King of Hospitality

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All dressed up and ready to head out for a wedding party in Iran!

10. Were we used to the food? What was the strangest food that we’ve eaten?

Thankfully both Daniel and I aren’t very picky eaters and we do not have any dietary restrictions. Because due to language barrier, most of the time we do not understand what the menu says and we’ll just randomly point at something on the menu and order that. That’s also the fun part actually, you never know what they’ll end up serving you! You could just have ordered yourself a plate of sheep’s brain! haha!

The most exotic thing that we’ve ever tasted was probably sheep’s brain. It was served chopped up in bite size mixed with tomato based spaghetti. Actually, it tasted kind of nice, you wouldn’t even know you’re eating part of a brain if we didn’t tell you! It tasted similar to boiled egg white.

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Delicious fried sheep brain – checked!

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Erm, sheep’s head soup. Includes the eyes, ears, tongue and everything else in the head. Not yet checked.

Bread is also the staple food in Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. So it kinda became our staple too. Sometimes for lunch, we’ll both just share 1 piece of bread (they’re really huge!) and it’ll only cost us less than a dollar. Plus bread kept us really full! The bread in these countries tasted really good though, especially the freshly baked ones. It’s usually crispy on the outside, soft & fluffy on the inside. Yummy!

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The key food that fuelled our 1 year travel

So there you go, the answers to the most commonly asked questions about our 1 year travel! Did we miss out anything? Do you have a question that you wanna ask us too? Tell us your question in the comments below!

Sunrise Odyssey