Travelogue

Exploring Belitung, The Hidden Gem of Indonesia

Exploring Belitung, The Hidden Gem of Indonesia

We were pretty stoked when we were invited to explore Belitung, a place that we’ve never heard of before! When people think of Indonesia, the first thing that comes to their mind is usually Bali. But Indonesia is so much more than just Bali! Indonesia consists of more than 15,000 islands and Belitung is just one of them!

Picturesque azure waters of Belitung island in Indonesia!

So first up…where is Belitung in Indonesia?

Belitung is this island (circled in red above) situated next to South Sumatra in Indonesia. Although geographically speaking, Belitung is much nearer to Singapore than Jakarta, the demand for flights from Singapore to Belitung is not high enough for the airline companies to come up with direct flights. Scroll to the bottom to see how to get to Belitung from Singapore!

What is there to do in Belitung?

Experience glamping at Billiton Eco-Beach Tent

Glamping at Billiton Beach Tent!

Seriously, one of the most luxurious camping experiences of our lives!

Trust us, we’ve tried glamping (or so they termed it) several times at different places. But THIS wins hands down, this truly is the epitome of glamping. For the uninitiated, glamping means glamour + camping (aka atas camping). Which glamping experience comes with AIR CONDITIONING?! And your personal outdoor shower & toilet?!

Enjoying our romantic candlelight dinner at the front porch of our tent!

We even had a romantic candlelight BBQ dinner right at our front porch. And the BBQ dinner was one of our best meals ever in Indonesia!! Definitely a MUST-TRY!

Test your balance at stand up paddle surfing

First time trying stand up paddle surfing! Fun!

This turned out to be a lot more tiring that we expected! We always thought it looked kinda easy and chill, but it was actually quite challenging! Especially at the start when we were trying to get our balance right. But once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy, except that it’s really taxing on the thigh muscles!

ps. This activity is available for Billiton Eco-Beach Tent guests!

Trek through the wilderness and enjoy an amazing summit view

Breathtaking views at the summit of Batu Baginda!

Considered to be an easy trek, suitable for beginner hikers! Took us less than 30 minutes to reach the summit and the terrain was pretty straightforward too. We did 2 treks in Belitung, Batu Baginda and Pramoen Hills.

Batu Baginda’s summit view was breathtaking and the strong breeze was so soothing (shiok)! The last climb up to the summit was pretty challenging though where we had to climb ladders and

Pramoen Hills was quite entertaining, they had several pit stops for photo taking with props, and even a car carefully positioned at the cliff’s edge! I kid you not! We actually climbed into the car for a photo!

Taking a selfie in a car at a mountain’s cliff face? Checked!

Island hopping & snorkelling

A secret lagoon discovered at Kelayang Island!

Interestingly though, when the locals island hop, they literally island hop and not enter the waters for most of it! We visited about 5 islands in total, and only snorkelled at 1 island – Lengkuas Island (Lighthouse). For the rest of the islands, we only walked around the island and took photos with the unique rock forms.

On the way to Lengkuas Island with the lighthouse as the landmark!

The unique & distinctive feature of Belitung is certainly the huge rounded granite rocks. Being avid climbers, we were so tempted to boulder when passing by some of these rocks with cracks so deep they form amazing handholds!

One cool thing about this experience is that we were one of the rare few foreign tourists! We went on a weekend and it was packed with locals, but hardly a foreigner in sight! So if you’re looking for an authentic travel experience, you should definitely check out Belitung!

Tip: Try travelling to Belitung during the weekdays if possible to avoid the domestic crowd!

Try the traditional Belitung coffee (Must-Try!)

Ahhh we absolutely love their coffee! There’s just something so delicious and addictive about their coffee! We love the taste of the roasted coffee bean and when paired with a thick layer of condense milk, ahhh heavenly goodness!

If you’re staying at the city centre of Belitung, you must try the local’s favourite coffee at Kongdjie Coffee! It’s really gooooood! 😀

Ps. it’s only 5 minutes away from Billiton Hotel, just right across the street!

Taste the local Belitung Mie

This dish reminded us of our local dish Mee Rebus in Singapore and probably Malaysia. The gravy is a little sweet and the noodles slightly springy. Overall not too bad….but……we still prefer our all time favourite INDOMIEEE! I know…..but, we can’t help it!

Visit the “Pamukkale” of Indonesia – Danau Kaolin

Interestingly, Belitung together with a neighbouring island, Bangka, form the world’s second largest tin producer after China! The above place is at Danau Kaolin which once used to be a mining area but now no longer in use. Also known as the Blue Lake, its beautiful sky blue colour is attributed to the water deposited inside the crater being mixed together with the rich white minerals.

Get inspired at the Museum Kata Andrea Hirata

This colourful museum was founded by the author of the best selling novel, Laskar Pelangi. Also the first literature museum in Indonesia! Great place for photo taking with all the colourful walls!

Tip: Belitung grew to fame because of the popular local movie, Rainbow Troops, where they shot the movie set at Tanjung Tinggi Beach. So, watch the movie or read the book first before visiting this island to get a better appreciation!

Essential Information

How to book the above activities in Belitung

We booked our tour with Belitung Wonder, a local tour agency in Belitung. Ria was our main contact person for this trip, and she arranged all of our transport, accommodation and activities! The thing about travelling in less commercialised places is that it’s much tougher to travel around on your own (unless you hire a private driver/guide).

If you’re looking for a tour agency to travel with in Belitung, we would highly recommend Belitung Wonder!  Their service is really good, reliable & trustworthy! Pls contact Ria via email (riaindra@belitungwonder.com) for more info.

How to get to Belitung from Singapore

We flew to Jakarta first (~1.5hr) via Jetstar and then followed by a domestic flight to Belitung (~1hr) via Sriwijaya Air. Do factor in some time for the (high) possibility of the domestic flight being delayed.

Hope we inspired you to check out this hidden gem of Indonesia! Travelling off the beaten path is always more exciting! 😀

9 Reasons Why Ko Lipe Should Be Your Next Beach Getaway

9 Reasons Why Ko Lipe Should Be Your Next Beach Getaway

Thailand has always been well known for their beautiful beaches. But not many know about their best kept secret – Ko Lipe, a pristine tiny island located southernmost of Thailand. Here’s our take on why you should consider Ko Lipe for your next beach holiday.

Ko Lipe – the ‘Maldives’ of Thailand

1. Soft white sand and crystal clear waters

Stayed at Sunrise Beach where it was a lot quieter and more beautiful!

The water is so clear that when we took a photo of our feet in the water, it looked as though we were just stepping on sand! No joke! Despite the number of longtail boats, we were very impressed that they managed to keep their waters so clean!

Tip: Stay at Sunrise Beach if you prefer a quieter experience away from all the buzz and noise.

2. Less commercialised than the other Thai beaches

The crowd on a Saturday night.

We went in early Nov which is supposedly the best time to visit Ko Lipe, and also its peak season. But surprisingly, it’s still not that crowded!

3. Delicious & affordable local food

One of my favourite things about Thailand – the local FOOD!

THE BOMB! Nutella crepe, we ate 1 almost every day :/

One of the top reasons why people love visiting Thailand is because of the delectable local cuisine! And the food here at Ko Lipe definitely did not let their name down. Not super cheap though, since after all it’s still a tourist place. An average dish costs probably around 80 to 100 baht (SGD3-4)? Our favourites include pad thai, yummy fruit shakes, thai milk tea, nutella banana CREPES, coconut ice cream, tom yum and more! Salivating as I’m typing this…..

4. Cheap and good massages

Plenty of massage shops along this Walking Street!

Where else can you get quality massages at $12 for an hour long massage?! Of course don’t expect a luxurious spa treatment and service at such a price, but for the massage alone, it’s seriously worth it. We didn’t expect much, judging from the shop’s facade. But since it was cheap and we had time to kill, we decided to pop in to try it out. And boy were we both pleasantly surprised! In fact the massage that we had here was better than the ones that we usually get in Bangkok for the same price.

5. Colourful coral reefs teeming with life

That water snake that gave us a huge scare when it started swimming towards us!

First time seeing such brightly coloured and vibrant coral reefs!

This place wins hands down for being one of the best snorkelling sites in Thailand. Unfortunately due to a tight schedule, we didn’t manage to dive. But we heard that diving here is awesome too! Especially if you appreciate beautiful corals, you will love it here.

Enjoying our dinner while watching the sunset by the beach <3

There are 2 standard packages A & B for snorkelling. Package A is cheaper (550baht) and they bring you to nearer sites for snorkelling. Package B (650baht) brings you to further sites.

BUT there’s a 3rd package that’s offered by a few vendors only (Thai beach travellers and Paradise Tours) which offers snorkelling plus plankton tour! We did that package with Thai Beach Travellers (they were the cheapest) and no regrets, highly recommended! The package consists of half a day of snorkelling during the day, followed by dinner on the beach as your eyes feast on the sunset, and then off to find the glowing planktons. More on the planktons in the next point.

6. Experience seeing millions of glowing stars underwater!

Definitely highlight of our trip! This is a MUST-DO! After the sun has set and our tummies were full, we set off on our longtail boat to a really dark area near Ko Adang. The boat soon came to a stop and our boatman excitedly told us to jump into the water, which we did! The moment there was movement in the water, the bioluminescent plankton started glowing like fireflies underwater! It was INCREDIBLE and MIND BLOWING! Too bad it was extremely difficult to take a nice photo as it was too dark and the camera can’t focus properly 🙁

Snorkelling+Glowing Plankton tour (highly recommended!): 800 baht per pax, 1.30-8pm. Includes all snorkel equipment and a simple dinner too!

Did you know? Bioluminescent plankton squirt globs of glowing chemicals into the water as a defense mechanism against predators! The glow will distract and confuse the predator, giving them time to escape! :O

7. Breathtaking view of Ko Lipe from Chadoe Cliff

As always, no trip is complete for us without a trek. This trek is highly recommended even for beginners! The entire trek up and down won’t take you longer than 2 hours! We took about 1.5 hours with some time spent taking photos and flying the drone. The terrain is challenging no doubt but the spectacular view at the summit makes it all worthwhile. The path is relatively well marked with yellow arrows pointing you in the right direction. You don’t need a guide for this trek.

For more details, check out our detailed guide on how to get to Chadoe Cliff at Ko Adang!

8. Beautiful resorts with amazing views of the sea

Serendipity Resort, beautifully nestled right at the end of Sunrise Beach.

Our cozy room at Serendipity Resort!

We stayed at 2 different beach facing resorts at Ko Lipe. The first resort that we stayed at was Serendipity Resort which was nestled amongst the greens at the edge of Sunrise Beach. The overall feel was very cozy with wooden furniture and flooring. Some rooms even have their own private pool! They even serve you breakfast in your room! If you like a more tranquil and relaxing experience, you will love it here!

Checking out our beach front room at Idyllic Concept Resort 😀

Our second night was spent at Idyllic Concept Resort which had a very different overall feel as compared to Serendipity. We were pleasantly surprised when they upgraded our room to a beach front room! The view was amazinggggg! Only thing was that there was a lack of privacy as everyone below can see you in your room :/

9. More convenient now with direct flights via Jetstar from Sg to Hat Yai!

How to get to Ko Lipe:

1. Fly direct to Hat Yai via Jetstar (~1.5 hours)

Good news is that Jetstar now flies to Hat Yai four times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays) with one-way fares starting at S$43!

2. Book a land transfer from Hat Yai airport to Pak Bara Ferry Terminal (~2 hours)

You can get your tickets online. It’ll cost around 1,700 baht (2 way) per pax for the mini van transfer from Hat Yai to Pak Bara, and speedboat ticket from Pak Bara to Koh Lipe.

3. Take a speed boat from Pak Bara Ferry Terminal to Ko Lipe (~1.5 hours)

Jetstar only just launched their flights to Hat Yai on 3rd Nov 2017 and we were one of the lucky few who were on this inaugural flight to Hat Yai! Before Jetstar launched direct flights from Singapore to Hat Yai, you’ll have to fly to Bangkok first followed by a domestic flight to Hat Yai. So we’re really glad that we managed to skip a step by flying direct to Hat Yai instead!

Thank you Jetstar for the seamless experience from checking in to the flight experience!

Hope you’ll enjoy Ko Lipe as much as we did! 😀 Do share with us tips on travelling in Ko Lipe if we missed out any!

Ultimate Guide to Climbing Chadoe Cliff at Ko Adang

Ultimate Guide to Climbing Chadoe Cliff at Ko Adang

For the best view of Ko Lipe, trek up to the top of Chadoe Cliff at Ko Adang to get a bird eye’s view of the island! Here’s our step by step guide on how to get to the view point of Chadoe Cliff.

1. Hop on a taxi boat from Sunrise Beach

Just walk along Sunrise Beach and you’ll eventually see a sign that says Taxi Boat. Or if you can’t find, just ask any of the boat man or staff around and they will point you to the right direction.

The taxi boat stand is near a huge dumpster cargo

Just inform the boat man that you’ll like to go to Ko Adang and that you’ll need around 2 hours there. He will come back and pick you up when you’re done at the same point where he dropped you off. Ours was quite punctual and we didn’t have to wait long for him.

How long does it take from Ko Lipe to Ko Adang by boat: 15-20 minutes

How much does it cost: 100 baht/pax 1 way. (doesn’t matter how many pax on the boat, they still count per head).

2. Follow the signs to Chadoe Cliff

Once you alight from the boat at Ko Adang, head towards the visitor centre, and you will see a signboard like the one below. Follow the sign to Chadoe Cliff.

Keep walking straight on the path and you’ll see a restaurant on your right. That means you’re in the right direction.

Keep walking on the path till you see a sign that says Chadoe Cliff which leads you into your first entry into the forest. Be mentally prepared, the trail is quite challenging. The start itself is quite a steep climb and you might need to clamber your way up!

3. Follow the markings and stay on the trail

Along the way you will see yellow painted arrows like the one in the photo below.

Some parts are quite challenging, almost like an obstacle course. And that’s why it’s fun!

4. Look out for the “View Point” signboard

The first view point took us around 40 minutes to get there. The first point wasn’t the best as there were some trees  blocking the view. Don’t stay there for too long, the next view’s better!

View point 2 was not bad too, but we mainly took photos at view point 3!

      

Amazing view of Ko Lipe from Chadoe Cliff’s view point 3!

To get down, it was still quite tough as some parts were really steep and slippery! Thank god we had great weather. In total we took around 1.5 hours including time used for taking photos and to fly our drone. So 2 hours should be a safe estimate if you need to let your boat man know how much time you’ll need.

Hope the above guide is useful for you! For more details on Ko Lipe, do check out our post on why you should consider Ko Lipe for your next beach getaway! 😀

Top 7 Fun Activities To Do In Tioman

Top 7 Fun Activities To Do In Tioman

Tioman has always been a favourite among beach lovers, wildlife & outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re planning a trip to Tioman soon, here are some fun activities that you can do!

1. Kayak above aquamarine waters

We’re not kidding when we say that you can literally see fishes swimming beneath you as you kayak your way around the island. At some parts the water is shallow and clear enough to see right to the bottom! For those staying at Berjaya Tioman Resort, kayaks are available for rental!

2. Snorkel with the sharks

We were enthralled to see not one, not two but 3 sharks when we snorkelling in Tioman! We saw a mama shark, papa shark and a cute little baby shark! We spotted the baby shark first and decided to follow it to see if it’ll bring us to her family. And true enough, she did! Unfortunately we didn’t manage to capture any good shots of the shark. But according to the locals, it’s very common to spot the black tip reef sharks off the shores of Tioman! So good chance you will get to see it too!

3. Trekking into the wilderness

No trip is complete without a trek for adventure/outdoor travellers 😉 Well, at least that’s true for us! Berjaya Tioman Resort offered jungle trekking as part of their activities and we did the 3 hour trek to the waterfall. Initially we thought that it might just be a very simple trek with nothing much to see. Boy were we so wrong! Our guide was excellent and he shared with us so many interesting facts along the way! We learnt about Poison Ivy, the usefulness of curry leaves and many other medicinal plants!

The trek itself was quite challenging as well. Proper footwear is definitely required. Thankfully it didn’t rain or it would have been twice as hard! Some parts were pretty steep where you had to climb up using ropes.

And….best part of the trek? A refreshing shower at the waterfall! The water was icy cold and it felt so good as the water hit our sore and aching muscles!

Tip: Bring your swimwear for the trek if you’re planning to have a splash at the waterfall!

4. Challenge your eyesight to see if you can spot any wildlife

These beautiful animals here were definitely not easy to spot! With colours that camouflage so well with the surrounding, it was so easy to miss them! To make things even harder, they are usually so still that you’ll think it’s part of the tree!

A closer look at the cute chameleon that our guide spotted! Look at his tiny hands, aren’t they just so adorable?!

We saw this monitor lizard while we were on our way back to the resort. It seemed to be digging for something, presumably food?

5. Explore the island while cycling

This is pretty much a very chill activity for those that prefer a quiet and relaxing evening. The pavements here were smooth which makes it very easy to cycle around. Not too many upslopes too. Bicycles are available for rent too at Berjaya Tioman Resort. For those that don’t know how to cycle, not to worry, they have tandem bikes too!

6. Catch the sunset with your loved one

On days with clear skies, the sunset here is sublime. Also, during the evening when it’s low tide, you can actually head out much further into the sea and take picturesque images like the one below! Look at how the water was only up to our ankles.

7. Delight your tummies with delicious local food

Especially for people who love spicy food, you will definitely enjoy Indonesian food! Their food is really savoury and tasty! At Berjaya Tioman Resort, they have a restaurant that offers buffet meals, an Indian restaurant and even a Thai restaurant!

Tip: If you’re staying at Berjaya Tioman Resort,  you must try the food at the Thai restaurant. It’s one of the best that we’ve ever had!

Essential Information

Where we stayed at

Berjaya Tioman Resort
The rooms here were really spacious and there’s even a living room in the Deluxe Room! The service staff were great too!

The bathroom was also really big and comes with a bathtub too!

How we got here

We took a coach (arranged by the resort) from Singapore to Mersing and then take the ferry direct to Berjaya Tioman Resort. Transport can be arranged by the resort.

Berjaya Tioman Resort is now open all year long. The resort is now offering a special ‘Room with Meals Package’ from MYR420 nett per room per night. Package is available from 1 November 2017 until 15 February 2018.

8 Reasons Why Malaysia Should Be Next On Your Bucket List

8 Reasons Why Malaysia Should Be Next On Your Bucket List

For us Singaporeans, Malaysia’s only less than 2 hours flight away. There’s no need to venture out far for your next adventure! Here’s why you should consider Malaysia as your next weekend getaway.

1. A wide variety of trekking routes for you to choose from

Whether it’s your first time or 100th time trekking, there’s always a mountain for you to climb in Malaysia. For beginners, Mount Kinabalu would be a great starter as the path is relatively well paved and safe and you can complete it in 2 days 1 night. However, it’s still challenging with an altitude of 4,100m and you will still need to train for it. For the more advanced climbers, you can consider climbing Gunung Tahan which takes 9 arduous days to complete!

2. Enjoy amazing summit views after you’re done trekking

The good thing about trekking in Malaysia, is the views that come with it. Especially if you’re planning on trekking Mount Kinabalu, you will be rewarded with spectacular views at the summit. Aim to reach before sunrise to witness the most gorgeous sunrise ever from the summit.

3. Dive with hammerhead sharks and a million other fishes

If you’re not a fan of mountains, and you’d prefer being underwater, you will love it here too! Our favourite would be diving in Sipadan, where we had one of the most amazing dive experiences ever! We were in the middle of a Jackfish storm and also, it was our first time seeing so many sharks!

4. Explore the mystical caves of Sarawak

There are just so many caves to explore in Sarawak. But the strange thing is that we never get bored of it, even after visiting our 7th cave! Each cave is so unique and interesting in its own ways! One of our favourite caves has got to be the Fairy Cave in Sawarak. The entire feel of the place was very magical and fairy tale like. We were so amazed to see so much greenery inside a cave!

5. Immerse yourself in the local culture

For those that prefer a more cultural experience, there are many temples in Malaysia that you can visit. One of the more recent temples that we visited was Pu Ji Shi temple in Sandakan. The temple was located at the top of a hill and you will get to enjoy the magnificent view of the city.

6. All foodies will definitely love it here – no doubt about that

The local food here is seriously the best. We don’t even know where to start. From the local’s version of bak ku teh, to their kolo mee, even their usual wonton mee is very delicious. Not forgetting affordable too! You can check out our favourite top 5 must try foods in Sandakan!

7. Surround yourself with beautiful wildlife and nature

Animal lovers, you have to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitan Centre. This centre takes in orphaned or injured orangutans and nurse them back to health before releasing them into the wild. It was such an amazing experience seeing these cute orangutans up close! Do check out our post on recommended things to do in Sandakan!

8. Simply relax at the Maldives of South East Asia

For those looking for a cheaper alternative to Maldives, you can consider visiting Manukan Island in Sabah! The water there is really clear and the sand is so soft and white! For those with a bigger pocket, you can consider staying at Manukan Island Resort as they have their own private beach and you don’t have to deal with the crowd! Alternatively, if you’re restricted by budget and time, you can also hop on a day tour to Manukan to enjoy the beach and their activities before heading back to the city! It’s only a 10 minutes ferry ride away from Kota Kinabalu!

How to get to the above places in Malaysia

Malaysia Airlines flies directly to Kota Kinabalu/Miri/Sandakan/Kuching and their flights are estimated around 2 hours away from Singapore! Check out the best MAS online booking you can get now!

How to book your accommodation in Malaysia

You can book your hotel using Traveloka, where you can easily filter your selection by location or price range! One good thing about booking with them is that the pricing you find on their webpage is the actual price with no hidden charges or taxes. A lot of the other booking sites are not as transparent with their prices.

10 Interesting Facts about Davao That You Will Want To Know

10 Interesting Facts about Davao That You Will Want To Know

If you’re looking for an interesting and off the beaten path travel destination, this post is for you.

Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental

So first up, where in the world is Davao Oriental?

Davao is located south of Philippines, and also its largest city. Davao Oriental is located right in the Davao region in Mindanao. Most people will think of the more popular places when they think of Philippines (ie. Boracay, Cebu, Palawan). These places are unquestionably beautiful, but also at the same time overcrowded and commercialised. So let us introduce Davao Oriental to you, the next food/party/beach travel destination to visit in the Philippines!

1. Davao has one of the nicest beaches in Philippines.

Most beach lovers will flock over to Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, etc in a heart beat. But if you’re like us, who’d prefer the less commercialised beaches, you will love Dahikan Beach in Mati City. Aquamarine waters, void of tourists, cheap & fresh coconuts and fun water sport activities like skim boarding and snorkelling!

My amateur attempt at skim boarding, very fun (and challenging)!

Fun fact for the day

Do you know that Dahican beach is also known as the skim boarding capital of Philippines?! Time to get your skim board ready!

Don’t forget to check out the largest whale in Philippines at the Sabangan Museum when you’re in Mati City!

2. Durian is everywhere in Davao and is very very cheap!

Durian lovers? You will love Davao! Durian, the king of fruit, is synonymous with Davao because it’s so widely available everywhere in Davao! Durian is being paired with almost every single food/drink here, not kidding. You have durian candy, durian coffee (it’s super nice!), durian pastries, durian ice cream, durian curry, basically durian everything! Durian is also really cheap here, it costs just S$0.50 for 1 kg!! The rich fertile volcanic soil and tropical climate of Davao make it perfect to grow durians and they have about 20 different species of durian here.

Best time to visit Davao for durian feasting

For hardcore durian fans, head to Davao during Aug-Oct when it’s the perfect season for durians!

Durian halo-halo is absolutely DA BOMB DIGGITY!!

3. The president of Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, lives here in Davao.

No wonder why Davao is often coined as one of the safest city in Philippines, their president resides here! Interestingly though, the security outside his house didn’t seem extravagant. In fact, if you hadn’t known, you probably wouldn’t even realise that you’ve just walked past Duterte’s house! Yes he still does live here! He’ll be in Manila during the weekdays but he’ll return here for the weekend!

Yes no joke, this is really the Philippines’s president’s house!

4. You can actually trek on top of a bonsai forest at Mount Hamiguitan (yes on top)!

This was one of the more interesting discoveries that we had during this trip. How cool is it to be able to trek on top of an entire bonsai forest which covered more than 6,000 hectares! With its immense collection of flora and fauna and unique landscape, it’s no wonder that this place has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The mountain is only about 1,620m and will require at least 8 hours to reach the summit.

Photo by dfjtees

Unfortunately due to a tight schedule, we only made it to the museum of Mt Hamiguitan 🙁 We will be back!

Getting wowed away by the short presentation of Mt Hamiguitan

5. Davao has one of the best artisan goat cheese ever.

Cheese lovers, just a heads up, do you know that Davao produces one of the best cheese in the country (and maybe even in the world?) Unfortunately you can only get their cheese in Davao itself as they do not export it.

Perfect souvenir for cheese lovers back home!

You can get artisanal handmade cheese from Malagos Food, perfect as souvenirs for your loved ones back home if they happen to be cheese lovers too!

6. Party your night away at the Summer Frolic EDM festival!

This was our first time attending an EDM party in Philippines and we had soooo much fun! Summer Frolic is held once a year in Davao Oriental, Mati City. Think loud music, soap suds, coloured powder/paint, free flow of alcohol, bubbles and international DJs, everything that make a fun party!

Wheeeee! So fun to play with soap and bubbles! 😀

With the party squad!

7. You can enjoy some of the best award winning chocolates here in Davao.

At Malagos Chocolate, they pride themselves with their tree to bar method of making chocolates. They farm and harvest their own cacao beans and produce chocolates that are on par with the best in the world. They won the best drinking chocolates in the world at the 2015 International Chocolate Awards World Drinking Chocolate Competition in Germany.

8. Get your adrenaline fixed by taking the first ever ultralight flight in Davao!

Yup, just you and the pilot on a small wall-less aircraft.  Imagine that! It’s practically a 360 degrees view throughout the entire ride! The entire ride will take only around 15-20minutes with a fee of PHP1,300. But the literally breathtaking view from above is definitely worth the money!

Image credit: Inakisievert

9. Coconut is used for almost everything here.

Majority of Philippines coconut trees can be found in Davao and boy do they produce the freshest coconuts ever! They use coconut for almost everything, ie. delicious coconut flavoured food/desserts/drinks, coconut oil, coconut shampoo/soap/moisturiser, basically coconut everything.

image by Johanna Alexis

10. Do you know that a dinosaur still resides in the Philippines?

Well, at least not a “live” one, but a sleeping dino :p This shot is almost becoming the iconic landmark of Davao Oriental. You can find it along Badas Point in Barangay Dawan in Davao Oriental. Anyone driving along the scenic coast will definitely stop for a photo with the sleeping dinosaur! With the beautiful blue skies, fluffy clouds and azure waters, I don’t see why not! 🙂

Can you make out the shape of the sleeping dino? 😉

So how can we get to Davao from Singapore?

Good news is that Cebu Pacific flies direct to Davao twice a week and it only takes 4 hours to get there! So what are you waiting for! 😀 Book your tickets here!

More about Cebu Pacific

Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) is the largest airline in the Philippines, offering its low fares and seat sales on twice weekly flights between Singapore and Davao. It also flies direct to four other destinations from Singapore, including Manila (32 times weekly), Cebu (seven times weekly), Clark (seven times weekly) as well as Iloilo (up to three times weekly).

CEB also operates an extensive network across the Philippines with its 37 domestic destinations. Operating from six strategically placed hubs: Manila, Cebu, Clark, Kalibo, Iloilo and Davao, CEB is the preferred airline to explore the Philippine archipelago.

You can book flights through here or their Singapore number +65-3158-0808. Don’t forget to check out their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!

A 3D2N Tioman Getaway That Every Singaporean Should Do

A 3D2N Tioman Getaway That Every Singaporean Should Do

If you’re looking for a relaxing weekend getaway to revitalise your weary soul, read on to find out how we spent our weekend at Paya Beach resort in Tioman.

1. Climb a 300 year old mother willow tree

Not what you expect of a typical beach getaway, but hey, this was definitely worth the 30 minute forest trek! At the beginning we were skeptical as to whether it was going to be lame, but nope, definitely not lame at all.

On the contrary, it was so cool! Imagine chancing upon this humongous willow tree that’s at least more than 300 years old in the middle of a forest! And not only that, you also get to climb it! That was definitely the highlight for us monkeys! 😀

Can you spot me?!

An easy 30 mins forest trek suitable for all beginners. It was such a magical moment standing in front of this towering beauty, that we could almost imagine little fairies and sparkles flying amongst the hanging twisted vines!

Or if you rather not trek on foot, you can splurge on an ATV ride instead!

FOR THE LESS AGILE FOLKS, TAKE NOTE!

You can consider riding an ATV to the Mother Willow too! You will be able to ride almost all the way and park your ATV where it’s just 5 minutes away from the tree. It costs 150RM for a single rider or 180RM for a double seater for a 90mins ride!

2. Spot reef sharks while you snorkel or dive

Tioman has always been a popular spot for diving and it’s embarrassing to admit that till date, we’ve yet to dive here. But we’ve always felt that Tioman was probably overrated and that there’s nothing much to see. Well, we were so so wrong.

We didn’t dive this time and snorkelled instead and guess what we saw! We were so amazed to be able to spot a shark while snorkelling! Not once, but trice! The only other time that we saw a shark was when we dived in Sipadan! Apparently these sharks are residents here in Tioman and it’s not uncommon to see them.

Snorkelling in Tioman was much better than we expected. Visibility was perfect and fishes were in abundance. Though they’re probably here because of hoomans that kept feeding them bread. We don’t encourage such a practice though, hey you’re messing up the ecosystem!

Reef shark spotted while snorkelling in Tioman!

DIVERS TAKE NOTE

The good thing about diving in Tioman is that there’s no flight to catch if you’re travelling from Singapore. Hence you’ll be able to easily fit in 3-4 dives during this short getaway! You can add on the Diving Package when you book your accommodation directly with the resort.

3. Knead your stress away at the Paya Tropical Holistic Spa

This was exactly what we needed to soothe our tired legs and bodies after all the snorkelling and trekking! We did the Paya Classic Massage and highly recommend it! The ambience was really nice and the masseurs did a great job at kneading our tight knots.

4. Chill at the beach and enjoy the sunset

This was after all supposed to be a relaxing getaway, so put away your to do list, and simply just chill and do nothing at the beach! Listen to the hypnotic sounds of the crashing waves as you allow your eyes to feast on the gorgeous setting sun.

Essential information

WHERE WE STAYED AT IN TIOMAN

Paya Beach Spa & Dive Resort – we stayed in their superior beachfront room and it was directly facing the sea! The rooms were very spacious and we really loved waking up to the sounds of the waves. We booked a 3D2N full board package with them which included all meals and a snorkelling trip. Do note that this package is only available on their website!

HOW TO GET TO TIOMAN FROM SINGAPORE

You will need to book a coach from Singapore (we boarded at Singapore Flyer) to Mersing (~4hrs) and then take the ferry from Mersing and alight at the second stop (Kampong Paya ~1.5hrs).

Alternatively, for those coming from Singapore, you can add on the return coach and ferry tickets when you book your room/package directly with Paya Beach Resort and they will settle everything for you! 🙂 Ps. this is a much cheaper option than booking the transportation on your own separately!

 

Our Favourite Top 5 Must-Try Foods In Sandakan

Our Favourite Top 5 Must-Try Foods In Sandakan

All foodies will love it here at Sandakan; the local food is sooo good and cheap! Here’s our top 5 favourite foods in Sandakan!

Bak Ku Teh

Fans of bak ku teh, you will love it here! The local bak ku teh is so good! Singapore’s bak ku teh is a lot more peppery as compared to the one Sandakan. For those interested to know, we ate at Syn Lok. Located near the water village in Sandakan city centre.

Leong Fun Bing (Grass Jelly Milk Tea)

This is the bomb when the weather is scorching hot! The drink is a mixture of condense milk, water and grass jelly. Sounds so simple and unspecial right? But for some reason, it is DELICIOUS! It’s soooo good that 1 packet is not enough. Really.

Best drink ever especially on hot days!

At a small shop near the Pu Ji Shi temple. it’s quite hard to describe the exact location though :/

UFO tart

It’s so cute how the locals thought of UFO when they made this tart, hence its name. It’s a tad too sweet for our liking though. Almost like an egg tart, but with a dollop of whip cream and caramel on the top! Can imagine how sweet it tastes yeah?

Springy Noodles

Most locals usually have this spring noodles for breakfast! The noodles were handmade and turned out to be so springy! (probably that’s how its name was derived) This was definitely one of our top favourites!

Tip: Skip your hotel breakfast and have the spring noodles for breakfast instead! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

We had the noodles at this local restaurant near the water village in Sandakan

Cheap & Fresh Seafood

Sandakan is located right next to the sea, so you can imagine how fresh the seafood is! Any fresher, you will have to catch it on your own 😉

Huge succulent prawns! So juicy and good!

Any fans of crab out there? This was absolutely finger licking good!!

Straight from the sea! Cheap and fresh seafood is a must eat in Sabah!

Any other must-try food that we should add to the list above? Share it with us in the comments below! 🙂

FAQ Guide to Diving In Sipadan and Beyond

FAQ Guide to Diving In Sipadan and Beyond

For most divers, Sipadan has always been a constant on their bucket list. Likewise for us and we were so thrilled to be able to finally strike that off our list!

Very excited for our dive in Sipadan!

What you can expect to see during your dive in Sipadan

 

Diving in the middle of a Jackfish storm!

Shark spotted during our dive in Sipadan!

We had 2 dives at Sipadan and this was the first time that we saw so many sharks and turtles up close! Sipadan is renowned for their large schools of fishes, white tipped sharks, barracudas, turtles and more!

Tip: A wide angled camera like a GoPro would be perfect to capture the vast marine life in Sipadan

 

Where to stay when diving in Sipadan

 

As Sipadan is a protected area, tourists are not allowed to stay at Sipadan island. There are several accommodation options at the other nearby islands. We stayed at Scuba Tiger at Semporna and it turned out to be one of the best decisions!

Our spacious water bungalow which is right above the sea!

View from our balcony

From the map below, you can see that Semporna is in the middle between the north and south dive spots. Sipadan and Mabul Island are located in the south, while there are some really good dive spots in the north as well!

Not difficult to spot the Scuba Tiger’s boat!

The boat ride takes around 45 minutes from Semporna to Sipadan or to the dive spots in the north. So if you stay at Mabul island or near Sipadan, it would be too far to travel to Sibuan or other dive spots in the north!

Lunch on board the boat while we’re out for our dives!

Tip: If you’re heading to Sabah to dive, don’t just dive at Sipadan only. Do give yourself at least another 2 more days to explore the other nearby islands!

 

When is the best time to dive at Sipadan

 

Photo credit: http://www.dive-holidays.com/

You can dive all year round in Sipadan but the visibility is the best during the hottest & driest months in June/July. We were there during early March and it was still very good albeit visibility of only around 10m. The school of jackfishes as shown in the photo above can be seen all year round too!

Where else to dive at besides Sipadan

 

Diving at Mabul Island!

There are many other small islands such as Mabul, Sibuan, Mataking, Mantabuan, etc. For these islands, the focus is more on the macro marine life. We were so intrigued by the tiny creatures that we spotted during our dive. From the cute little frogfish, colourful nudibranchs to peacock shrimps, the macro marine life at Mabul never failed to amaze us.

Photo credit: Peacock Mantis Shrimp by Alexander Safono, Flickr

How to get the permit for Sipadan

 

To protect Sipadan, the government has imposed a regulation that only 120 divers are allowed to dive at Sipadan daily. There are 2 ways that you can get the permit.

  • For those who are short of time, you can purchase a permit on its own from the resort. It costs us 850RM per pax for the permit which includes 2 dives at Sipadan. We got our permit from Scuba Tiger.
  • Or you can book a minimum of 4 night stays at any of the dive resort and they will be able to issue you a 1 day permit to dive at Sipadan. If the dive resort ran out of permits, don’t give up, check with other resorts first!
Tip: To secure your permit for Sipadan, do plan your trip in advance especially during the peak season!

 

What else is there to do besides diving at Sipadan

 

Hiking at Bohey Dulang

Mesmerising view from the peak of Bohey Dulang

For those that have more than a few days to spare, you can try hiking at Bohey Dulang. It’s no doubt a short 600m hike, but still challenging! Because of the recent rain, the terrain was very muddy and slippery! The view at the top is extremely picturesque, definitely one of the best that we’ve ever seen in our lives!

Tip: For those planning on hiking Bohey Dulang, please wear proper hiking shoes as the terrain can be very slippery especially during the wetter season!

 

Snorkel and chill in the crystal clear aqua marine waters!

Indulge in the freshest seafood ever

This is definitely a must do for all food lovers! We had one of the best and freshest seafood ever in Semporna city (10mins drive from Scuba Tiger). You can pick your choice from crabs, fish, tiger prawns, squid, and more! There’s a whole stretch of seafood restaurants right next to the sea in Semporna. We ate at Fat Mama, which is apparently one of the cheapest and good places to dine at for seafood.

Straight from the sea! Cheap and fresh seafood is a must eat in Sabah!

How to book a diving trip in Sipadan/Semporna

For us, we booked it with Scuba Tiger which is a dive resort located in Semporna. We did 3 days of diving with them (which included 1 day of dives in Sipadan) and 1 day of snorkelling. Overall it was a really great experience, the staff were very friendly and helpful too! Free shuttle service is also provided to the city centre in Semporna (around 1o minutes drive). Do contact them for more info on the pricing and packages available! 🙂

Do you have any other questions with regards to diving in Sipadan? Ask us in the comments box below and we’ll try our best to answer them! 🙂

Things To Do In Sandakan

Things To Do In Sandakan

There’s a never ending list of things to do in Sabah. Located on the east of Sabah lies Sandakan, the heaven for all food and nature lovers. Here’s our recommendation on things to do in Sandakan!

Delight your tummy with delicious local food

All food lovers will definitely fall in love with this city filled with yummy food! From the local bak ku teh, homemade springy noodles to desserts like the UFO, you have to try them all when you’re here! See here for our favourite top 5 must-try foods in Sandakan!

A must try for all bak ku teh fans!

Get up close with the cute Orangutans & Sunbears

Being animal lovers, we absolutely enjoyed this day out to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre! There are 2 parts to the visit, first we will get to see the juvenile orangutans in the outdoor nursery where they are still learning the basic survivor skills.

Young orangutan fooling around at the outdoor nursery in Sepilok

Next we were led to the feeding platform where at 10am sharp, the trainer will appear with a basket full of bananas, long beans and other fruits for the orangutans. We were so lucky to be able to witness mama orangutan and her baby climbing down to the feeding platform!

Aww, mama orangutan and her precious baby!

At the feeding platform of Sepilok

Tip: Go earlier at 9am to beat the crowd and to get a nice viewing spot of the cute juvenile

At the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

Fun fact: do you know that the tongue of a sun bear can extend to 20-25cm when feeding? This long tongue is useful for them to extract insects (eg. ants) from deep holes and honey!

Marvel at the wonders of the beautiful Gomantong Cave

In full awe of the breathtaking Gomantong Cave in Sandakan

Being the largest cave of Sabah, it’s not only home to a million bats and swiftlets but also cockroaches and dung beetles! Before you go on about how disgusting that is, do you know how important the cockroaches are for the ecosystem within the cave? These cockroaches are responsible for feeding on the carcasses  of the bats and swiftlets and this helps prevent diseases from spreading.

Tip: Important to wear proper footwear when visiting Gomantong Cave. It can get very slippery from all the guano and not forgetting the cockroaches crawling all over the pathway!

Till today, locals are still using traditional methods (ie. bamboo poles, rattan ladders, ropes, etc) without any safety equipment to climb to the top of the cave to harvest bird nests. No wonder bird nest is so expensive!

Do you know, the rarer pure white bird nests can fetch up to $5,000 per kg?!

Beware of these poisonous centipede that can be commonly found in the cave!

Fun fact: Swiftlets are excellent flyers! They fly so well that they can actually mate during flight

Be at one with nature at the Bilit Rainforest Lodge

Especially for the city folks, this will resonate with you guys, it feels so good to be disconnected from the digital world and to escape to nature from time to time. We really enjoyed our stay at Bilit Rainforest Lodge where it’s nicely nestled in the forest. We had to cross a river to get here!

Our cozy abode at Bilit Rainforest Lodge

The rooms were really spacious!

Wildlife spotting while cruising along the Kinabatangan River

One of the activities here at Bilit Rainforest Lodge is the river cruise along the Kinabatangan River. It was quite fun trying to spot the different wildlife that might appear anywhere any time!

From hearing the hornbill call to actually spotting it, seeing the leaves rustling and realising that it was caused by a group of proboscis monkeys.

Do you know that the proboscis monkey’s bulbous nose is what attracts the female?

Spotted an oriental pied hornbill while cruising along the Kinabatangan River

For those game enough, you can even opt for a night river cruise to spot the nocturnal animals such as the owl or the sleeping animals. We spotted crocodiles, king fishers and an owl during our night river cruise!

Aww, this cute little blue eared kingfisher was smaller than my palm! 

Explore the quaint city of Sandakan

For those with some extra time, do check out some of the city’s highlights to better understand their culture and history. Our first stop was the Pu Ji Shi Temple located at the top of a hill.

Next we visited the water village of Sandakan where a large population is still living in houses built above the waters! In the past, majority of the locals were fishermen as Sandakan was located along the coast. This tradition has carried on till today where many of them are still fishing for a living.

Water village at Sandakan

Essential Info

How to book the above tour in Sandakan

We booked the tour with Amazing Borneo who arranged everything from the accommodation, transport, to attraction tickets for us in Sandakan. If you prefer a fuss free experience, we highly recommend Amazing Borneo! Do contact them directly for more info on the updated pricing 🙂

Overall we really enjoyed travelling off the beaten path in Sabah, exploring the interesting city Sandakan. Have you been there before? Did we miss out anything?

Sunrise Odyssey