Travelogue

Majulah Singapura – Singapore (VIDEO)

Majulah Singapura – Singapore (VIDEO)

Majulah Singapura, translated as “Onwards Singapore” in Malay, our official ceremonial national language of Singapore.

After coming back from our 1 year trip around the world, we started looking at Singapore in a brand new perspective. Just in time for Singapore’s Golden Jubilee last year, we decided to do a feature video on Singapore, our beloved homeland, and boy did we have loads of fun! Being able to view Singapore from a traveller’s point of view and yet having experienced first hand growing up in Singapore, we were able to capture the essence, culture and the little things that make Singapore, truly Singapore. Watch it in HD if possible! Enjoy.

Produced, Directed, Edited: Sunrise Odyssey
Music: Thomas Bergersen – Promise

 

Do hit the like/share button if you are able to relate to this! 🙂

 

6 Lost Gems of Singapore That You Must Visit Before They’re Gone!

6 Lost Gems of Singapore That You Must Visit Before They’re Gone!

Thinking of the next travel destination to explore? Why not check out our very own backyard right here in Singapore! Visit these 6 lost gems of Singapore before they’e gone!

1. Marsiling WWII Tunnel & Naval Base

A military underground tunnel built by the British and left abandoned after the WWII. The underground storage facility was used to supply oil for the British Navy but was disused after Singapore gained independence in 1965.

After bashing through the forest for awhile, we finally spotted the entrance of the underground bunker! Looked intimidating, but it was not that bad actually. Just be prepared to get dirty though!

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The small entrance to the abandoned underground bunker

There’s also a rope available to help you get in or out of the tunnel. Just be careful of the vines around the entrance which might cut you as you enter the tunnel.

Tip: Bring along a headlight or a strong torchlight! It’s really dark inside the tunnel especially as you enter deeper into the tunnel.

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Use the rope to help you enter or exit the tunnel opening

After entering the tunnel, you’ll be greeted with a flight of stairs which will lead you down deeper into the tunnel. If you look at the photo below carefully, you’ll be able to see patches of small white balls plastered on the walls. Well…they’re actually the eggs of the geckos living there! You might not be able to see them clearly, but you certainly will be able to hear them scurrying past you! There are probably hundreds or even more of them living in this tunnel!

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Can you spot the white eggs of the geckos on the walls?

If you still can’t spot the eggs, here’s a close up shot of the eggs and the geckos! Gross right? The whole time I was praying that they don’t end up falling on my head!

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The geckos guarding their nests fiercely

As you go deeper into the tunnel, it gets muddier and eventually we reached a point where the water level was above our ankles! That was when we stopped and headed back towards the entrance.

Tip: Wear proper trek shoes with good grip! It can get quite slippery inside the tunnel.

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2. Kampong Buangkok

Kampong Buangkok was built in 1956 in Hougang, it’s also the last “kampong” (village) found in Singapore! Singapore used to be a fishing village where kampongs were ubiquitous. But fast forward to today, all you see are mostly modern skyscrapers and buildings.

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Don’t you find this scene out of place in modern Singapore? It’s so interesting that this kampong still exists today in Singapore! According the the locals, they are still living the slower pace of a kampong life, leaving their doors open and trusting one another.

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3. Istana Woodneuk

This is definitely one of our favourites of the list, an abandoned old mansion that was built by a Johor Sultan back in the late 19th century. It was also one of Singapore’s largest private residences back then. It was fun imagining what this place would have been like during its heyday.

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The eerie and once majestic Istana Woodneuk

That’s right, enter at your own risk.  This place is indeed quite dangerous as it almost felt like the entire place was about to collapse anytime! Also right where I was standing, it used to be the ballroom of the grand Istana Woodneuk where the well dressed socialites gathered for their party. Eerie huh?

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The ‘grand’ ballroom of the Istana Woodneuk. Shall we dance?

This place has been abandoned for more than 50-60 years and the photos certainly tell it all. It was also once used as a temporary hospital for the soldiers who fought for Singapore during the WWII.

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Beware of the ceilings that looked like they’re about to collapse!

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This probably used to be a kitchen back then

4. Bukit Timah Railway

This used to be part of the Singapore-Kranji railway which was the first railway built in Singapore in 1903. The station was closed down in 2011 when the Malaysian operated railway service ceased its operations in Singapore.

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The abandoned Bukit Timah Railway Station

We decided to continue walking on and to follow the railway track all the way to the end.

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As you can see from the photos below, part of the trail can be quite wet and muddy. Be prepared to get your shoes wet and dirty!

Tip: Wear proper shoes if you wish to try out this hike, especially if it has been raining for the past few days.

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Can you spot the defunct traffic light for the train?

Towards the end of the relatively short hike, you’ll emerge out of the forest and find yourself in front of the HDB flats in Clementi!

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5. Yin Foh Kuan Cemetery

This place stood out the most because where else can you find a cemetery in the middle of a HDB estate?! This is actually a Hakka cemetery that was built by the oldest Hakka association (Yin Fo Fui Kan clan) back in the 18th century. This cemetery was also built on a hill as it was considered as good fengshui.

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Yin Foh Kuan Cemetery in the middle of a HDB estate

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6. Shinto Shrine of Macritchie

Note: We’ve been advised by National Parks that it is not advisable for members of the public to visit this site as there’s no designated trail and there’s a high risk that you might get lost. 

To commemorate the Japanese soldiers who died in the WWII, they built a Shinto Shrine for them which was located within the MacRitchie Reservoir forest. However it was destroyed by the British after the Japanese surrendered and the shrine is now left in ruins.

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Trekking through the forest in search of the sacred Shinto Shrine

The original structure was a temple with no walls and thus you’ll find that most of the ruins are concrete slabs and structures left in the open.

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This “bathtub” like structure was for the worshippers to cleanse themselves before entering the shrine

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The stairs that led to the Shinto Shrine

Have you been to any of the above hidden places in Singapore before? We’ve heard that some of the above places might have been cordoned off to public already, please update us if you’ve been there recently!

*Disclaimer: Enter the above places at your own risk. From what we heard, some of the places have already been cordoned off and access to public is not allowed.
Golden Sand – Highlights of Mongolia (VIDEO)

Golden Sand – Highlights of Mongolia (VIDEO)

 

 

This video more or less sums up our amazing 1 month travel in Mongolia, the country that took our breath away! From camel riding, sipping salty horse milk, dining by the river with wild horses roaming around to sliding down the steep sand dunes of the majestic Gobi Desert, we were so in awe at nature’s creation. We also really enjoyed our stay with the nomadic Mongolians in their traditional yurt, where we experienced a different, genuine and warm hospitality from them, a wonderful experience despite the language barrier between us. Our favourite experience in Mongolia would definitely be camping outdoors in the middle of the Gobi Desert under a blanket of infinite stars. We have never seen that many stars in our lives before! Do also check out our highlights of our 8 days Gobi Desert Tour in Mongolia for more photos and stories!

Music: Haluun Elgen Nutag – Nicition
Camera: Canon 5D Mk3 with ML

If you enjoyed watching our video, please help us to like and share it! 🙂

Weekend in Bintan at FlyBoyz Beach Bar

Weekend in Bintan at FlyBoyz Beach Bar

Here’s to those who are looking for an exciting nearby getaway trip! Why not check out the newly opened 3 storeys FlyBoyz Beach Bar opened by the ‘Flying Dutchman’ in Bintan?

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If you’re bored of the usual things to do in Singapore and are looking for a nice nearby getaway place to party or relax by the beach, you will love what we have to recommend to you. Recently we were invited by FlyBoyz to check out their newly opened F&B concept restaurant in Bintan and we had such a great time! Here’s why you should spend your next weekend at FlyBoyz too!

Sate your taste buds with their delicious homemade food & drinks

The location of the restaurant is so awesome, imagine dining while enjoying a beachfront view. One thing that’s really special about FlyBoyz is that they grow their own variety of herbs and spices in-house and really take pride in their yummy homemade dishes and drinks! Here are some of our highlights from their menu 🙂

Mangrove Madness

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Might not look that appealing, but it’s one of the most refreshing and delicious drinks ever!

Our welcome drink that consists of spinach (yes not kidding!), orange, pineapple and lemon juice! This was our favourite drink out of the list actually, it was really refreshing and delicious! Especially with the weather being unbearably hot these days, all you need is really a glass of this Mangrove Madness that can instantly cool your body down and quench your thirst! A must drink!

Homemade bread and honey mustard

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One of the best soft homemade bread that we’ve ever tasted in our lives!

One of the best bread that we’ve tasted in our lives. The bread was so soft and tender with a tinge of sweetness as you bite into it. Not forgetting the homemade honey mustard dip too, the combination is just perfect! Our only fear was eating too much of the bread and not having enough stomach space for the main course!

Big Boyz Burger

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If you’re a meat lover, you will love the Big Boyz Burger. The freshly baked buns together with the homemade beef patty were really good. The meat was seasoned with BBQ sauce which gave it this sweet overall taste which went really well with the burger. This burger is huge though, if you’re a small eater, you might want to share this with someone.

Bintan worms (yes. very gross i know!)

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Well, I was actually forced to eat this. haha. I tried running away from Mark (Flying Dutchman) but failed. While Daniel on the other hand happily rolled a really long disgusting worm around his fork and slowly savoured it. Yucks. We dare you to try it!

Dance, party and drink away!

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The second floor of FlyBoyz is also known as the Hoobar bar where they play classic retro hits from the 70s-90s . Music is another speciality of FlyBoyz where both partners are great music lovers themselves. The resident live band, Boom Shakalaka, plays at the bar and we had so much fun dancing our hearts out to the catchy songs!

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The guitarist in Boom Shakalaka is blind and he’s so superbly talented and can play not only the guitar but also the piano!

Their third floor is a cuban themed rooftop bar where they play Cuban Jazz and Salsa music. If you love salsa, you will definitely enjoy it here at FlyBoz where there’s even a huge dance floor for you to salsa your night away! If salsa’s not your thing, then you can simply chill at the rooftop bar and enjoy your special drinks while grooving to the cuban music.

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Chill out under the beautiful starlit sky while sipping on your Mojito

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Mr. Bartender in action!

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Sipping on the really good Kopitini!

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Another unique must try – the Ugly Pizza (that’s really the name!)

They have really unique and special drinks at the Cuban bar and one of our favourites is the ‘Kopitini’ which is basically vodka infused with expresso. It was really special and we felt that both flavours went really well together!

Calm your soul

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This place, Treasure Bay, is going to be the next big thing in Bintan. The length of the entire bay is around 800m with the deepest point being 3m (where the bungee is going to be at). We can foresee that this place is going to be very happening within the next few years!

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The reason why this place appears so blue and clear is because it’s really clean! It’s a man-made bay that uses filtered sea water. You can swim and soak in the ‘sea’ without having to endure the stingy bites that you sometimes get when you’re in the real sea where there are other organisms living in there.

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Luxurious camp site at the mangroves

This place is perfect for honeymooners or anyone who wishes for a romantic getaway. Imagine camping amongst nature but yet in the comforts of a 5 star ‘tent’, hence, it’s known as the luxurious camping experience. Currently they’re still at phase 1 in constructing the place but eventually, these tents will be shifted to be in the middle of the mangrove, totally surrounded by nature. How cool is that!

For the adrenaline seekers, do keep your eye on this place! They have a whole line up of super exciting water sports coming up your way. Think bungee, water jetopack, cable ski, just to name a few. We can’t wait to try them too once the activities are ready!

Essential Information

Where to stay

Swiss-bel Hotel (Currently this is the only hotel available but there are a lot more hotels/resorts coming up soon at Lagoi Bay)

How to get here

Ferry from Tanah Merah terminal in Singapore
Around 45 minutes boat ride to Bintan
The hotel has a shuttle service that picks you up from the terminal straight to their hotel
About 5 minutes walking distance between Swiss-bel hotel and FlyBoyz

Thanks to FlyBoyz for hosting us over the weekend!

Recommended Cave Hotels in Cappadocia

Recommended Cave Hotels in Cappadocia

Ever stayed in a cave hotel before? This definitely has to be on your bucket list if you have never done it before! It was so interesting to imagine how people in the past lived in the caves. Whether you’re a budget or luxurious styled traveller, we have a cave hotel to recommend to you!

For budget to mid range travellers

Star Cave Hotel

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Established since 2004, this cozy cave hotel is a great and affordable experience for travellers! The genial owner, Ramazan, is definitely worth a mention. He made us feel very welcomed right from the start and even brought us to his ‘secret garden’ where we shared a delicious BBQ kebab dinner with him and his family! Ramazan was also very helpful and gave us plenty of advice as to what activities we could do in Goreme.

Tip: Don’t forget to ask Ramazan to bring you to his special “secret garden”!

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The cozy and beautiful double bed room in Star Cave Hotel

They have a total of 12 cave rooms ranging from standard double bed cave rooms, family suites to dormitories!

Tip for budget travellers: Check out Star Cave’s dormitory! It only cost 25TL for a dorm bed, very reasonably priced!

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The place for travellers to relax and have their breakfast

Price range: 25TL to 240TL (pls contact Star Cave directly for updated pricing)
Includes: free wifi, breakfast and transfer from Goreme bus station.
Location: Very good, walking distance to main sights in Goreme

Melek Cave Hotel

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Enjoying my breakfast and a cup of tea at the roof terrace of Melek Cave Hotel

A family run business with amicable host Ali who ensures that his guests all have a fabulous time! The rooms were very comfortable and spacious with our own private bathroom. Ali would also be more than happy to help you arrange your hot air balloon tours and other tours in Cappodocia!

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Double room in Melek Cave Hotel

We stayed in a family room as shown in the picture below. Very spacious rooms, just be careful of the lower ceiling heights, especially for the taller travellers! Otherwise, we had a great sleep and really enjoyed staying at Melek Cave Hotel!

Tip: Do remember to book in advance as the rooms at Melek Cave Hotel tend to always be fully booked especially during the peak season!

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Family room in Melek Cave Hotel

Price range: 80-150TL (pls contact Melek Cave Hotel directly for updated pricing)
Includes: Free wifi, breakfast and pick up from the Goreme bus station
Location: Excellent location, right smack in the heart of Goreme, about 10 minutes walk to the Love Valley

For the luxurious traveller

Gamirasu Cave Hotel

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Gamirasu Cave Hotel at night, this place is beyond magical!

It’s no wonder that Gamirasu Cave Hotel has been listed as one of the top 10 best hotels in the world and also TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice winner 2015! Their service is impeccable, the rooms are beyond amazing and the entire experience was simply magical!

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Standard cave room in Gamirasu Cave Hotel

Every room in Gamirasu is separated into 2 parts, the living room and the main room. The owner tried to keep as much of the original cave structure as possible. This mesmerizing cave hotel was once used as a monastic retreat in the Byzantine Era 2,000 years ago. Don’t forget to check out the Byzantine Church at the back of the hotel that has still been preserved till date!

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The living room connecting to the standard cave room

Price range: 555 to 3,600TL (185€ to 1,200€)
Includes: Free wifi, excellent breakfast spread and free transfer to Urgup
Location: Ayvali Village (10km from Goreme), but no worries, Gamirasu offers free shuttle service between Ayvali Village to Urgup and from Urgup, there are plenty of buses to Goreme.

*The contact number listed on Lonely Planet 2013 edition is wrong! The correct number is +90 384 354 5815

Bonus: For the KINGS!

Gamirasu Cave Hotel: Byzantine King Suite

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Byzantine King Suite in Gamirasu Cave Hotel

No joke, this room is really one of the most luxurious that we’ve ever seen in our lives before! It’s so so so freaking gorgeous, huge and amazing! In fact, this room is actually the most luxurious and largest cave room in Turkey. Our breath was taken away the moment we stepped foot into the hotel and our jaws practically dropped when we entered the King Suite where we stayed a night. We could hardly contain our excitement as our eyes darted across the room eyeing the gigantic bed, private jacuzzi and even our own sauna!

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The grand spacious living room of the Byzantine King Suite Room in Gamirasu Cave Hotel

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There’s even a real fireplace in the room! How cool is that!

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Our super huge bed with 6 fluffy pillows! The best sleep that we’ve ever had in our lives!

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And our very own private jacuzzi!!

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Humongous toilet with our own hamam heated marble bed

Our experience in Gamirasu really felt like a dream….a night stay in the Byzantine King Suite would normally cost 1,200€ ! And this cost would entail your personal driver and private VIP car, unlimited meals, personal Hamam (Turkish bath), all drinks and other servies too! How nice! As our room was sponsored, didn’t get the additional services, but we still had a fabulous time!

Have you stayed in a cave hotel before? Share with us your experience by commenting below!

Hiking Mt Nemrut during Winter

Hiking Mt Nemrut during Winter

Ever wondered what it was like to hike Mt Nemrut during winter, with everything covered in snow? Well, here’s our snowy experience on the most arduous and challenging hike to the summit of Mt Nemrut to see the famous statues that guarded the royal tomb back in the 1st century BC!

We hiked to the summit of Mt Nemrut during end March and technically, there’s not supposed to be so much snow during this time of the year! We honestly expected it to be a sunny and beautiful hike! But lo and behold, the entire place was covered with snow up to 2 metres or more! It was INSANE. Look at the amount of snow in the photos below! At certain parts, the snow was even up to our hips!

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Trekking in knee deep snow to Mt Nemrut!

So we stayed at Karadut Pension which was the second accommodation option closest to Mt Nemrut already. You will first have to walk on a relatively flat road of about 6km to Cesme Pension where the upslope begins to Mt Nemrut. Thankfully, we managed to hitch a ride from a pickup truck that was heading to Cesme Pension, so that shaved off quite a couple of kilometres off our hike!

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Just us and beautiful mother nature 🙂

After awhile, you can’t even see the road anymore. The snow was so thick that it reached up to the railing’s height! The signage and buildings were all almost covered in snow too! We met a Australian couple and a Brazilian guy separately who both gave up on hiking to the summit and were turning back. They said that there was just too much snow and it was impossible to hike to the summit. But well, we love challenges and we both knew that we won’t turn back till we’ve reached our limits. And so we continued on….not easy man…

Tip: ALWAYS remember to protect your eyes by wearing shades with UV protection when hiking on snow! I didn’t and ended up with both eyeballs being burnt, suffered from snow glare 🙁 It was torturous! My eyes couldn’t open at all for the next 2 days and I simply slept for 2 whole days straight! Waking up only for meals and also to use the bathroom. Lesson learnt the hard way for me.

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Most of the signage was covered almost entirely in snow!

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The carpark was filled with snow to the brim! We don’t even know which was the roof anymore

It was definitely an arduous journey to the summit of Nemrut. I heard that during summer it’s much easier, but during winter, it’s really no joke, especially the last 1km, so near yet so far!

But look! We made it! 🙂 It took us a total of 6 hours to reach the summit. We heard that during summer it only takes around 3-4  hours. We almost cried for joy when we spotted part of the statues that were guarding the tomb! The adrenaline in us shot up and we walked over as quickly as we could. Seeing the impressive statues in person was an definitely an incredible experience.

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Enjoying the view at the summit of Nemrut

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Fun fact: See the summit where the statues were guarding? It’s actually a 50m artificial hill made out of crushed rock, an order by the pre-Roman King to have it above his tomb. Due to earthquakes, the 2m high heads of the statues have toppled and have since been placed in front of the statues.

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Close up of one of the head statues at the summit of Nemrut

As we were making our way down, we bumped into a group of 4 Thai guys who attempted to climb to the summit of Nemrut but gave up eventually. They were resting and about to head back down when we met them. They had a driver with a van waiting for them at the bottom and lucky us, we managed to hitch a ride back to our hotel. It was much easier walking downslope and also because by then, the tractor had already cleared the way for us. Unlike when we were making our way up to the summit. we needed to pave our own path! Check out the immense amount of snow at the road sides! It was crazy!

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On the way down near the base of Mt. Nemrut. Check out the height of the snow!

So well, we would say that hiking to Mt Nemrut during winter really isn’t for everybody. You need to have a certain level of physical fitness as well as mental strength! Luckily for us, we had quite a fair bit of experience hiking in snow before and hence this wasn’t something new for us. It was of course very easy to just give up and head back down, but well, we’re glad that we manage to persevere on! Definitely worth the effort 🙂

Essential Information

Where we stayed
Karadut Pension
70TL (US$26.30) for a double bed room
With breakfast, wifi (reception area only, very weak in the room), private shower

Pros
Reasonably priced considering the proximity to Nemrut
Good location, 2nd nearest accommodation to Nemrut
Excellent dinner (cooked by the mom) – additional 15TL per person

Cons
Very cold! Choose the right room, our first night was super cold despite the heater and multiple layers of blanket
Wifi connection in the room very weak
The shower water was only tepid and the water strengtjn form

How to get here from Siverek
We took a minibus to Kahta (left at 5pm), and alighted at Narince at around 6.30pm
Our bus driver called the owner of Karadut Pension for us. The owner was waiting for us when we alighted. Cost extra 10TL per person for the ride to the pension.

Have you been to Mt. Nemrut during summer before? How different was it from our experience? Share your experience with us by commenting below!

Top Adventures in Turkey

Top Adventures in Turkey

Any adventure travellers out there? You will definitely love Turkey! There are just so many exciting activities to choose from that you’ll end up being spoilt for choice! Here are our favourite top adventures in Turkey.

1. Wind surfing in Alacati

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Learning the basics on land first

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Look how shallow the water is!

Alacati is one of the best place in the world for learning how to windsurf. Think constantly steady winds, shallow waters (the water level is only up to our hips!) and clear blue skies. This was our first time windsurfing and compared to wakeboarding, kite-boarding or surfing, this is definitely the hardest to pick up. Although the winds are not that strong, but the strong waves from the nearby passing boats still made it challenging trying to balance on the board. Apart from maintaining your balance, you still have to pull up the sail (which can be quite heavy especially as you get more tired) and quickly regain the correct position to catch the wind.

Tip: Please learn from our mistake. Never ever go downstream (in the same direction of the wind), it’s gonna be extremely difficult to make your way back to the starting point again! Always go upstream when surfing! Or if you find that you’re drifting too far from the starting point, jump off your board and walk back to where you started.

Where you can learn it: Alacati Surf Paradise Club (ASPC)

We took up a beginner course with ASPC which consisted of 5 modules over 2 days. The time needed really depends on your learning speed and also the wind strength. If the wind is too strong, it’s not advisable for beginners to surf. So usually it’s recommended to set aside 3-5 days when taking this course in case you’re not able to surf on certain days due to strong winds. Our very experienced instructor, Abdurrahim, was very patient with us and did a great job at explaining the basics to us! We can proudly say that we managed to learn windsurfing in just 1 day! Thanks to our awesome instructor!

Cost: 210€ per person (please contact ASPC for updated rates)

Where to stay in Alacati: Ciprika Pension, 120TL (during off peak season). Very beautiful, cozy and clean rooms! With shower and free wifi in the room too! Alternatively, you can also choose to stay at Cesme (20 mins bus ride away) where the accommodation there is much cheaper!

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Spacious changing area and plenty of lockers at ASPC!

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Latest 2014 windsurf and kitesurf equipment

2. Rock climbing at Olympos

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We’ve tried indoor rock climbing before but we’ve never really tried real natural rock climbing before! This was my first actually! It’s really very very fun (albeit tiring), we couldn’t feel our arms the next day! The rock wall here at Olympos is perfect for beginners, very easy to grip with lots of grooves and cracks. For the more advanced climbers, fret not, there are different walls with differing levels of difficulty.

Tip: We would highly advise you to wear a light windbreaker or long sleeved top while climbing as the rocks can be quite sharp and we’ve ended up with some battle scars after climbing.

Where to do it: Climb in Turkey

Yildirim is the founder of Climb in Turkey and he was also our guide for the rock climbing. With more than 20 years experience of mountaineering and climbing, we definitely felt very safe under his guidance. Olympos is a very popular place for rock climbing and there are numerous walls of different difficulty levels for all sorts of climbers.

Where to stay in Olympos: Bayrams, 40TL ($20) for a double room. We requested to stay in a tree house (but don’t bother in winter, it’s too cold and there’s no heater!) which looked like any ordinary hut made out of planks of wood. Very nice garden with a campfire in the middle. Wifi only available in the garden.

3. Diving at Kas

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We had the opportunity to do a plane wreck dive at Kas and by far this was one of the coolest that we’ve experienced! It was so cool seeing an entire huge plane submerged underwater! We could take a peek inside the cockpit as well as enter the cargo area which was much more spacious than we expected.

This was our first time diving in Mediterranean waters and we were quite shocked at how different it is from tropical waters! We’ve dived several times and all were in tropical waters where we were constantly surrounded by an array of colourful corals and fishes. But in the mediterranean sea, it’s a whole world of difference. It’s mostly sandy bottom without any corals or colourful fishes. But having said that, mediterranean waters is good for seeing larger fishes such as Jackfish, Barracudas and even sea turtles if you’re in the right season.

Tip: If you’re planning on diving during winter or even spring (we were there in April), brave yourself for the extreme cold! Best if you are trained to wear a dry suit. We were shivering uncontrollably underwater the entire time, it was simply too cold for us to bear!

Where to do it: Dragoman

We dived with Dragoman and Elif arranged for us the dive session. Elif was very pleasant to work with and overall, we had a great time diving with Dragoman!

Where to stay in Kas: Santosa Pension, 60TL for a double room with shower, wifi and free breakfast. Bonus – kitchen available for travellers to use! Friendly and helpful owner, beautiful rooftop terrace with an amazing view of the harbour.

4. Cycling in Chios (Greece)

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If you have enough time to spare and you’re around the easter coast of Turkey, you can consider taking a ferry across to one of the Greek islands which is only an hour boat ride away! There’s honestly not much to do in Chios and so we only stayed 1 night and returned back to Turkey the next day. Everything is significantly more expensive in Chios as compared to Greece. We rented bicycles from the 0-Point stations (there’s one near the marina) for 1 Euro per hour. The windmills here were very pretty!

Tip: Only Euros is accepted in Chios and there are no money changers around. So do bring along your ATM card to withdraw some Euros while you’re there!

How to get to Chios: We took a ferry from the Cesme Marina to Chios. The ticket booth at Cesme Marina only opens at 4pm and the ferry leaves at 6pm. Each one way ticket costs 20 Euros.

Where to stay in Chios: Amalia rooms, walking distance from the harbour. Very basic small rooms without toilet and breakfast. Cost us 20 Euros for a double room. Free wifi available.

5. Hiking the Lycian Way

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We’ve done quite a number of hikes before and we must say, this is one of the most beautiful hikes that we’ve ever done in our lives! The entire hike is along the coast and the view is fantastic! Just look at the unbelievable azure sea in the photo above! The entire hike is a loooong 500km but you can always choose to do a sample of it like we did. We only hiked 3 days of it and we had one of the best times of our lives! Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be back to hike the entire 500km!

Tip: Bring along enough snacks and water for the journey if you’re hiking during off peak! We went around mid April and there were hardly any shops along the way!

Our route for hiking the Lycian Way in 3 days: Start at Oludeniz – Kabak Beach – Alinca Village – Gey – End at Patara Beach

*We’ll be doing a more detailed post on the Lycian Way hike soon!

6. Paragliding in Oludeniz

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Yes, finally we get to tick paragliding off our bucket list! Oludeniz is a very popular place for paragliding and we can understand why. The views from way above were extraordinary! Especially when you overlook the picturesque blue sea and butterfly valley. Note that the photo is unedited and without filter! No kidding! It’s that perfect! In terms of fear factor, compared to sky diving or bungee, this is nothing! Unless you have a phobia of height, you should definitely give this a try!

Where to do it: We did our flight with Focus Paragliding and we were very satisfied with their service! All of their instructors were well trained and experienced. Your instructor will have his own GoPro and will take all of the photos and videos for you. You’re not allowed to bring your own camera. After the flight you can view all of your photos and videos taken and then decide if it’s worth paying additional for it. Well we did and we felt that it’s definitely worth the extra bucks! 🙂

We hope you’ve enjoyed our adventures! Now it’s your turn to try out the above activities!

Have you tried any of the above activities before? Share with us your experience by commenting below!

Things to do in Isfahan – Our favourite city in Iran

Things to do in Isfahan – Our favourite city in Iran

There are so many beautiful places in Iran, but Isfahan wins the place in both our hearts. There’s just something so magical and sublime about this mesmerising city. From the mosques’ intricately painted mosaic pieces, the bustling historic bazaar to the picturesque bridges and central square, we were held spellbound for the entire time that we were there. Here are our suggestions on amazing things to do in Isfahan!

Kakh-e Chehel Sotun

If you look closely at the building behind us in the photo,  you can see some long slender columns holding up the ceiling and the pavilion. There are actually 20 of those columns. Interestingly, the name “Chehel Sotun’ means 40 pillars and the reasons being the reflection of the pillars in the long pool in front of the pavilion.

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At the grand Chehel Sotun Palace of Isfahan!

The entrance of the Great Hall (Throne Hall) cannot be grander than this. Look at it, entirely covered with shiny gold reflective mirrors! It was so beautiful!

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Wait till you see the inside of the Great Hall, we were blown away by the historical colourful frescoes that depict stories of the court life and past battle glories.

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Mesmerised by the beautiful array of frescoes inside the Great Hall of the Chehel Sotun Palace.

Naqsh-e Jahan Square (Central Square)

This square, has got to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world! Naqsh-e Jahan actually means ‘pattern of the world’ and this picturesque place definitely give full credits to its name! All 4 sides of the square were impressive in their own ways and you definitely have to dedicate at least 1 full day to exploring this awesome place! This square is also the second largest in the world (after Beijing’s Tiananmen Sq).

Tip: Visit this beautiful square twice. At night, the entire place transforms into a totally different place! Also, the fountains only turned on at night, we’re not sure why either.

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The majestic and tranquil Naqsh-e Jahan square of Isfahan

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Naqsh-e Jahan square at night, a totally transformed place!

Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah

This has got to be one of the most interesting mosques that we’ve ever been to, albeit it being very small and unusual (without the usual capacious courtyards or minarets) The reason being that this mosque was meant to be a private worship place for the royal family. The entire mosque is made up of a hallway that leads to the main prayer hall and a study at the basement of the building.

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The grand entrance of Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah

The interior of the Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah is being lit up by the sun rays that shine through the latticed windows, there are no artificial lights at all inside the mosque.

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The amazingly beautiful and mind blowing ceiling patterns of Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah.

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And for those that have been to Iran and used the Lonely Planet guide to get around, ever wondered why this place looked so familiar? Welllllll….cos it’s where the cover photo was taken at! Check out the photo on the right below!

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Masjed-e Shah (Masjed-e Immam)

Another sublime example of the splendid architectural talent of the skilled artists in the 16th century. Check out the geometric symmetry of the patterned mosaic tiles! Each individual mosaic piece was hand painted and then carefully pieced together to form this perfect masterpiece.

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The majestic entrance of Masjed-e Shah

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Marvelling at the stunning architecture and details of the Masjed-e Shah’s courtyard

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Admiring the impressive mosaic arches of Masjed-e Shah

Bazar-e Bozorg

We have been to a million and one bazaars since we started on our 9 months Footprints Across Asia travel but this particular bazaar in Isfahan has been one of our favourites so far! The setting of the bazaar in the beautiful courtyard alleys, the wide array of souvenirs, carpet products (I bought a carpet backpack from here!) and a million other random things!

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Qeysarieh Portal – the entrance to the bazaar

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The “copper tin man” of the Grand Bazaar in Isfahan!

Masjed-e Jameh

The Jameh mosque is one of the biggest and oldest surviving mosques in Iran. This mosque is not located at the square and it’s located quite a distance from it. You can walk via the bazaar to get to the Jameh Mosque, it’s definitely worth the effort!

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The ablutions fountain in the middle of the courtyard was designed to imitate the kaaba at Mecca. Devotees come here to practise their rituals before heading for their pilgrimage at Mecca.

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Captivated by the detailed brickwork of the Taj al-Molk Dome, one of the finest brick dome ever built in Persia. This dome might be small, but it’s said to be extremely hardy and has survived numerous earthquakes for the past 900 years! Also, the placement of every single brick is said to be mathematically perfect!

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Impressed by the mathematically perfect and sturdy Taj al-Molk Dome

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Vank Cathedral

This Armenian cathedral is quite a far walk from the main city centre though, but we highly recommend it! The beautifully painted frescoes inside of the cathedral certainly made the walk worth while! It’s also in the same direction as the Pol-e si-i-seh bridge so you can visit both attractions in the same day.

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Exterior of the Vank Cathedral, looks simple but wait till you enter it, you will be amazed!

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And here it is, the stunning frescoes on the walls inside of Vank Cathedral!

Pol-e si-i-seh bridge

This used to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the world but it has since become a bridge over troubled water. Ok joke aside, to provide more water for in the increasing population in Isfahan, the government built a dam which resulted in the diminishing water supply on the other side of the bridge. Even from the photo below, if you look closely, you can actually see the river bed, that’s how shallow it is!

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Picturesque Pol-e si-i-seh bridge of Isfahan

Isfahan’s really pretty amazing huh? Now you understand why it has become one of our favourite cities in Iran?

Essential Information

Where we stayed
Amir Kabir Hostel
250,000 Rial (US$8) for a single dorm bed (3 beds in 1 room)
With breakfast, wifi (reception area only), shared toilets

Pros
Cheap, suitable for budget backpackers
Good location, walking distance to main sights
Basin in the room

Cons
Very small room, crammed with 3 beds
No toilet in the room, shared toilet not very clean
Simple breakfast
Wifi available only in the reception area.

Have you been to Iran before? Which city is your favourite? Share with us your views by commenting below! 🙂 Also if you’re heading to Shiraz, do check out our post on Things to do in Shiraz – the land of poetry, nightingales, wine & flowers

Things to do in Shiraz – the land of poetry, nightingales, wine & flowers

Things to do in Shiraz – the land of poetry, nightingales, wine & flowers

Shiraz, also known as the land of poetry, nightingales, wine and flowers, has always been the heartland of the Persian culture and also once the capital of Iran. Here are our suggestions on things to do in Shiraz as well as the places around it.

Arg-e Karim Khan

A huge medieval fortress right in the middle of the city, once used as a prison, is now a museum which contains some art paintings and old photographs of what Shiraz used to be.

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The majestic Arg-e Karim Khan citadel of Shiraz

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We were exploring the museum when we came across a group of young students and their teacher who was very excited to see us. She immediately asked her students to take turns posing for photos with us. In particular, she asked us to take a photo of this very sweet girl (photo on the right below) as her eyes were a very beautiful shade of blue.

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Aramgah-e Hafez (Tomb of Hafez)

Hafez was a renowned and well loved poet of Iran and almost every Iranian is able to quote his works. But the photo below pretty much sums up this place, the tomb is the main attraction. We feel that you can give this place a miss if you do not have the time.

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Aramgah-e Hafez (Tomb of Hafez)

Impressive street art

While exploring the streets, don’t forget to admire the creative art expressions on the walls. We were really impressed by some of them.

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Bishapur

The ruins of an ancient city of Iran, once a grand city that defeated the Romans, but today here’s all that’s left. Unfortunately we were here without a guide and we couldn’t really make out most of the ruins. Probably this place would be more interesting with a guide explaining to us.

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The remains of the once magnificent Bishapur

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Chogan Gorge

A short distance from Bishapur, the Chogan Gorge has 6 huge bas-reliefs carved out of the steep rocky limestone cliff. The reliefs are mostly engravings of horsemen which depict their victory over the Roman invaders.

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Bas-reliefs of the victory over Roman invaders at the Chogan Gorge

Persepolis

The name Persepolis also means “City of Persians” and its current state is a mere shadow of its former days glory. It was believed that Persepolis was built on the slopes of Mt Rahmat to showcase its magnificence and grandiosity to its visitors, especially during their New Year celebrations (Newroz). We feel that this place is definitely one of the highlights of Shiraz, a must visit if you’re coming to Iran.

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Breathtaking Persepolis – the city of Persians

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You might not be able to tell from the photos, but this place is huge! Back in its heyday, it was more than 125 sq km! If you’re wondering how come it’s all only pillars left (like in the photo below), it’s believed that this entire place was burnt down by Alexander in 330BC. The roofs were made of timber and after being burnt, it melted the iron bolts that held the structures together. Hence causing the ceilings to collapse, leaving behind only the stone columns.

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Parsagade

The main highlight of the Parsagade would be the Tomb of Cyrus, as shown in the photo below. We didn’t take much photos of this place as we decided to give it a miss as there was nothing else to see besides this tomb. Ps. we took this photo from outside the fence of the complex.

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Tomb of Cyrus at Parsagade

Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab

We only saw these attractions from outside as we felt that they were very similar to what we’ve seen previously at the Chogan Gorge (scroll up), which were basically bas-reliefs (rock engravings).

Essential Information

Where we stayed
Niayesh Boutique Hotel, US$10 for a single dorm bed with breakfast
Not bad, value for money. Dorm room was quite cozy, albeit very narrow. Good location, walking distance to most of the attractions in the city. Relatively strong & fast wifi connection available in the rooms.

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How we got around
We booked a 3 days tour with Masoud (fravahar_m@yahoo.com) which included a driver and vehicle to bring us to the places above as well as around Yazd. We had 2 different drivers, one for the first day and the other for the second & third day. Overall it was quite well organised, but as we wanted to cut cost, we omitted the guide services. 

Have you been to Shiraz before? Do you feel that it’s worth it to check out the attractions around Shiraz or to give them a miss? Share with us your views by commenting below! 🙂

A must-visit in Iran, Qeshm Island

A must-visit in Iran, Qeshm Island

Even if you’re not a geology buff, you will still be in awe of the unbelievably stunning natural landforms at Qeshm Island in Iran. The dramatic jagged canyon ridge lines, longest salt cave in the world and the photogenic fishing village are definitely a must see!

We were very fortunate to have met a local family in Qeshm Island and to spend 3 days 2 nights there with them. True to the genuine hospitality of Iranians, this family was very kind to host us and to even bring us around! Otherwise, it would be quite hard to travel around Qeshm Island without our own transport as there was no public transport at all 🙁

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A sumptuous feast prepared by the mother of the family

We have always enjoyed interacting with the local people and to experience their way of living to really feel immersed in their local culture. I was very fortunate to have been able to attend a pre-wedding celebration with the ladies of the family! Only females were allowed at this ceremony and it was such an interesting experience! No photos of the wedding ceremony though as the ladies were apparently very camera shy.

After taking almost an hour to put on their best dress (after switching between numerous outfits), they wrapped themselves up entirely in a colourful patterned chador that hid their shimmery tightly fitted dresses. At first I thought that they will remove the chador after arriving at the party, but strangely, their beautiful dresses remain hidden under their chador the entire time and left without anyone even seeing what they wore to the party.

The ceremony was held at a court yard of the bride’s house where her family, relatives and friends sat along the walls on a carpeted floor. The empty space in the middle was ostensibly a dance floor and a place for the bride to ‘show off’ her prenuptial gifts from her husband’s family. The gifts will then be passed around and the ladies took turns admiring and gazing covetously at them. Loud music blared at the same time and in between the gifts presentation, some of the ladies grooved to the music on the dance floor. Although most were too shy to dance, especially the older ladies. No photos at the actual party though as they ladies didn’t like having their photos taken!

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All wrapped up in our colourful chador ready to attend a local wedding celebration together with the ladies!

The next day we were all hyped up and excited to explore the amazing geology of the island!

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Off we went on our little road trip around Qeshm Island!

There are still 60 Bandari villages at Qeshm island and you will be able to see some of the older generation women wearing a traditional mask that covers the top half of their face. These ‘masked ladies’ can only be seen here in the south of Iran, mainly Bandar Abbas and Qeshm Island.

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With a masked Bandari lady at Qeshm Island

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Trying on a Bandari mask at a shop in Qeshm Island

The ladies of Qeshm Island were well known for their expertise in golabtoun douzi, the sewing of colourful designs on fabric. They even sell handmade masked dolls that symbolise the masked Bandari ladies! These ladies were part of the “Art for Conservation” project where the income made from selling these handicrafts to tourists goes back to them as well as local conservation projects. We feel that this is a really great project as it helped achieve economic independence for the local women who have to otherwise stay at home and depend on their husband financially.

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The handmade masked dolls

The Laft fishing village is part of the very fast disappearing traditional culture of the Persian Gulf. The Laft is very photogenic especially during sunset.

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Near the Laft, you can also visit the lenge-building yard where you can witness many huge traditional cargo ships in the making. These ships were being used to ferry goods along the gulf.

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At the lenge-building yard near Laft in Qeshm Island

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Our first time witnessing a humongous ship being rolled out into the sea!

Next up, the highlight of the day – Qeshm Island Geopark! There are 2 main sights here, the Namakdan Cave and the Chahkooh Canyon. We visited the Namakdan Cave first which was the world’s longest salt cave (6.8m) and it was such an unexpectedly adventurous experience for us! At first we thought that it would be like the usual commercialised salt caves with its stalagmites and stalactites, but hey, we were so so wrong!

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Checking out the hardened salt lake!

Lo and behold, this was the entrance to the Namakdan Cave! Not kidding! The cave’s entrance was probably only around 1 meter or less and we had to bend our knees and lower our bodies to enter the cave! We definitely weren’t expecting to enter a cave with such a narrow entrance and filled with water that reached up to above our ankles and even knees in the inner part of the cave! Also, there wasn’t any formal ticket booth or something, or maybe our host family brought us to another entrance of the cave, we would never know.

Tip: If you’re visiting the Namakdan cave, bring a pair of flip flops along! Unless you want to crawl around the cave in uncomfortable wet shoes filled with salt crystals that will rub painfully against your feet.

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The unbelievably narrow entrance of Namakdan Cave in Qeshm Island

We were already not so tall and we found it rather challenging and tiring to bend our bodies at an almost 90 degrees angle for quite a distance before it opens up to a larger part of the cave where we could stand up straight. Can’t imagine for the bigger and taller people, probably a torturous experience!

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That’s me! Struggling to stay low to prevent my head from getting scraped by the cave’s ceiling!

Here’s our very tall friend, Hiro, struggling to keep himself safe while crawling through the cave! As he was much taller than all of us, he had to clamour around on his hands and knees, thus you can see that his slippers were on his hands instead of his feet!

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Our very tall friend struggling inside the cave!

Finally after some back breaking moments, we reached the inner larger part of the cave where we could stand up comfortable without hitting our heads against the rocks! By the way, the cave was HUMONGOUS! The salt formations inside of the cave were sublime, untouched and surreal! Somehow this experience felt really different from the other commercialised caves that we’ve been to. We really enjoyed exploring this cave very much!

Tip: Make sure your guide or yourself bring along a high luminance torch! The cave is practically pitch dark and without the light, it’s impossible to find your way around. Though there’s a string that leads you all the way into the cave and out.

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All of us inside of Namakdan Cave

Also, be prepared for your entire body, hair and clothes to be covered in salt crystals! Look at our crystallised pants, the aftermath of exploring the Namakdan Cave!

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Our pants covered with white salt crystals after exploring the Namakdan Cave

The drive to the Chahkooh Canyon was so picturesque! The landscape here at Qeshm Island is really unique and different from others, its sand ridges were spectacular.

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If you think the above was amazing, wait till you see the Chahkooh Canyon, it was mind blowing! Just look at the dramatic layered ridge lines of the canyon, it was so picturesque!

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The ever incredible Chahkooh Canyon of Qeshm Island!

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We definitely highly recommend Qeshm Island to travellers coming to Iran, it’s worth the time and effort to get there! This mesmerising island is certainly one of our favourite places in Iran.

Essential Information

How to get here
We took a ferry from Bandar Abbas, 10,000 Rial per person.

How to get around Qeshm Island
No public transport available to the attractions, you’ll have to hire a private taxi to bring you around.

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At the ferry terminal to Qeshm Island

Have you been to Qeshm Island before? What was your experience like? Share it with us in the comments below!

Sunrise Odyssey