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Be frivolous. Be brave.

TravelWhenever

Sheep’s Waterfall

Kirkjufellfoss

Bjarnarfoss

TIPS?!

IGTV

Iceland will always have a special place in my heart and I will definitely revisit this country in a heartbeat! It was my first time to Europe, and I was so glad I had someone so spontaneous and willing to go on this trip with me.

J and I freezing our fingers off for camera shots!

I remember us looking at the world map at my dining table in the living room; shortlisting countries we could head next for our adventure.

‘If not now, then when?’ was something that my friend mentioned to me during our conversation one random day at lunch. And that hit me hard. I have always wanted to go Europe, but have always put that on hold because I have placed Europe on the highest pedestal ever. I wanted it to be perfect and just wanted to find the perfect time.

Well, there is no perfect time but NOW. You create your own perfect time. Because looking at how the situation is right now, sometimes, you just have to do things you want or crave NOW (when you still can), if not when?

Let’s start off with the Western Region, Snæfellsnes Peninsula first! Iceland, here we go!  

Sheep’s Waterfall

Sheep’s Waterfall
Operating Hours:24/7
Recommended length of visit:~ 1 hour or less
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Sheep’s Waterfall was not part of the itinerary. We just stumbled across when driving and saw a parking area with a few people climbing up from beyond. We were curious and decided to check it out. #noregrets

signboard at the parking area

It was such a pleasant impromptu discovery! Because it was not part of our Snæfellsnes Peninsula itinerary and thus did not research on it, we initially did not venture far. We saw the vast open field with the lake at our peripheral vision and thought, ‘Alright, this is just it.’.

vast open green field

We were about to leave after a few snaps when one guy, with his partner, climbed up from further down the hill and exclaimed that there was a waterfall below. The view was so much nicer down there. He added that we should totally check that out!

three billy goats gruff?

And this is the reason why I love travelling. You encounter random strangers all with an open mind and heart to discover and share the beauty seen. If it wasn’t for this kind soul, we would probably not have seen the waterfall and the sheep.

It was only Googling much later and connecting the dots that I realised the place is called Sheep’s Waterfall, for very obvious reasons. Sheep were just free-roaming near the waterfall. It was amazing!

If you are heading up to Kirkjufellfoss in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, do check this one out! Not much walking involved for such a beautiful experience! Why not?

You could venture behind the waterfall too!

Kirkjufellfoss

The mighty Kirkjufell from afar.
Operating Hours:24/7
Recommended length of visit:~ 2 hour
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
On the way into Grundarfjörður town.

Everyone flocking to Snæfellsnes Peninsula would imperatively head for the must-visit Kirkjufellfoss. Because this cylindrical shaped mountain is pretty massive, you could already see it from afar. There are viewpoints just near Grundarfjörður town to get a more wide-angle shot of the mountain. Just Google ‘Kirkjufell Viewpoint’ for a more legit space to snap, or anywhere safe really. Kirkjufell looks magnificent 360o.

Kirkjufell as the backdrop en route into Grundarfjörður town.
Kirkjufell Viewpoint
Kirkjufell Viewpoint

The more popular spot for many is definitely the closeup shot. There are parking spaces on each side of the road. Because it is a very popular tourist spot, there were people, locals I presume, there to navigate visitors to park their vehicles safely.

And the series of mini waterfalls begin… …

It was so cold that day, and it was raining still. But oh well, we had to make do. The thing about Iceland was that, with minimal walking, you could get fantastic views that would take you out of this world.

From the parking lot, you could already see how amazing Kirkjufell mountain is! I was pretty much mind-blown. All those many Google images I had seen on my laptop were now right in front of me! Spectacular!

You could admire a series of mini waterfall as you amble around it on the structured walkway. But of course, the star of the show is imperatively the mountain as the backdrop!

No amount of words can express how amazing this sight was for me. The main reason for us driving to the Western Region of Iceland, was to marvel at this very sight!

I can only imagine if the Northern Lights were just dancing above the mountain on a freezing cold night. Oh how magical would it be. But having seen this for myself, I was already pretty satisfied, even without the Northern Lights! 🙂

Bjarnarfoss

Operating Hours:24/7
Recommended length of visit:~ 1 hour
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Just like Sheep’s Waterfall, Bjarnarfoss was also not part of the itinerary. We just stumbled across when driving back to Reykjavík. We espied a really tall waterfall from afar while on Snæfellsnesvegur highway. Again, #noregrets.

view along Snæfellsnesvegur highway

I guess we see a pattern here huh? When in Iceland, if you could spare a few moments for a quick explore, you might actually find a hidden gem that you might have missed out during your travel research! In fact, we were not supposed to travel on this road back to the city. To be honest, I have no idea why we took this slightly longer route instead. A blessing in disguise I reckon!

Pretty little house in nature’s embrace.

There were plenty of parking lots, but no restroom available though. This is a great place for a pitstop and maybe a picnic? There are picnic tables available. There is a cute little house just beneath the waterfall. I remember we were joking that if we could get a house just like that with a waterfall at the backyard and a front porch of massive green field, oh how amazing it would be! Serenity at its finest. Haha! One can only dream.

On the walking trail towards the waterfall.
The crashing waters beneath the waterfall.

The walking trail was pretty manageable considering we did not venture further pass the bridge. We just admired the waterfall from its foot. If you would want the full experience, I heard from the people climbing down from the hike that it can be a little steep and challenging? So if you are up for a hike, maybe this could be your go-to! Just remember to wear firm-gripping shoes!

I am honestly not sure if this place is also a camping site, but we did see one solo camper having his breakfast?

Camper embracing nature!

If you have some time to spare, I do recommend you just heading to the bridge. It was pretty refreshingly serene!

TIPS?!

Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Western Region Iceland was really just a touch-and-go situation. Alas, we did not have much time to explore what this region really could offer. I am sure we have missed out quite a few gems given only spending 1 night here!

1I reckon given at Snæfellsnes Peninsula, I would love to head further West to explore the famous glacier-peaked volcano and black sand beaches at Snæfellsjökull National Park. Hraunfossar and Glanni Waterfall are also places that I would love to visit. I had these in my itinerary but we did not have enough time for them. If you are heading to the Western Region, may be you could check these out too! 🙂
2We went to Saga Centre Grundarfjordur in the small town to enquire about some travel stuff, and stumbled across Mæstro – Street food. It was so happen our car was parked near this food truck and we were just massively hungry. We ordered hotdogs. Eating hot food in the car on a cold day was really a bliss. Their hotdogs were pretty good. I loved it! I reckon they do not operate during the Winter, so do check on Google before heading over. Or if you happen to pass Grundarfjörður township, maybe you could pop by to check it out!
lunch in the car
J getting us our lunch!

Just writing and reminiscing about Iceland makes me miss traveling so very much. I can definitely see myself heading back to Iceland again in the future. And the next time, I would definitely want to venture the Eastern Region of Iceland!

IGTV

If you were like me, thinking that travel experiences could be put on hold till a better time, don’t. Experiences are priceless. You work hard, you experience the world hard too!

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world and Travel Whenever!

For now, let’s just stay home until it is safe for the next adventure! 😀

Dee

Be frivolous. Be brave.

TravelWhenever

Day 1 Highlights

Rai Maneesorn (Sunflower Field)

Midwinter Green Khao Yai (Restaurant)

Day 2 Highlights

Khao Yai National Park (Important Information)

Khao Yai 30km. View Point (in Khao Yai National Park)

Dinner at ครัวหญ้าคาเขาใหญ่ (Thai Restaurant)

Day 3 Highlights

Palio Khao Yai

The Chocolate Factory Khao Yai

PB Valley Khao Yai Winery

TIPS?!

IGTV

Best time to visit Khao Yai:End November to Early January
Recommended length of visit at Khao Yai:~ 3 nights (max. 4 nights at best, and really stretching it!)

With the constant advertisements on the things to do beyond Bangkok city itself, we have places like Hua Hin (~ 2.5 hours from Bangkok) and Khao Yai (~ 3 hours from Bangkok) popping up every so often. Which reminds me, I should probably start working on my Hua Hin article soon huh. 😀

Khao Yai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Khao Yai National Park is the third largest and probably the most visited! If you were to do a quick google image search on Khao Yai, you would probably see quaint-looking buildings that you would not believe they are actually located in Thailand. The buildings / hotels are designed to make you feel like you are in some European scene immersed in lush green calmness. Well, at least that was my impression of Khao Yai even before I went. Oh and also not to forget the amazing sunflower fields filling the entire vista!

J and I trying to catch the sunlight.

There are so many luxurious themed hotels that will take your breath away and be just spoil for choices, so I will not delve into that. Let me bring you through my 4D3N stay at Khao Yai – things in my itinerary you can probably forgo and things that are must dos!

Day 1 Highlights: Rai Maneesorn (Sunflower Field)

Operating Hours:07 00 – 18 00 daily
Entrance Fee:Foreigner: 80 Baht / pax

Local Adult: 40 Baht / pax

Local Child: 20 Baht / pax

(collection of fee happens at the carparking area; someone will signal you to wind down your window and pay up as you are parking your vehicle)
Recommended length of visit:~ 1 – 2 hours

(depending on how intense you want your sunflower selfie game to be)
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

We arrived at the sunflower field at about 16 30. Considering that the sun would be setting in about 1.5 hours’ time, there were not many visitors. The evening air was cooling and crisp! There was not much I could ask for. Everyone could find their own little spot around the big vast field to have plentiful of beautiful pictures with the sunflowers and not be obstructed. The distant sunset as the backdrop added an awesome texture to the whole peripheral vision I must say!

You will not be stopped by anyone when you step onto and between the rows of sunflowers on the planting field. Just make sure you are gracious enough to do not pluck, destroy or stomp on any sunflowers in the process! 😀

As there are not much shady areas to hide from the sultry afternoon sun, I suggest visiting the field in the morning or evening! I would prefer the evening.

This sunflower field is a must visit place when in Khao Yai. You have to make sure you do not miss it!

Day 1 Highlights: Midwinter Green Khao Yai (Restaurant)

Operating Hours:10 00 – 22 00 daily
Personal Breakdown Rating: (out of 5)Ambience 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Service 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Food Quality 🙂 🙂
Overall Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂
Total Damage (per pax):~ 1150 Baht

(This also depends on what exactly you are order. We had 2 mains and 2 sides.)

The WOW factor of course came from the ambience. I have to say it is probably one of the most romantic dinner spots I have seen, especially the outdoor seating – which by the way, has people queuing for. We decided to take the indoor seating as it was a pretty cold night and I was already freezing my arse off just walking from the parking lot all the way to the restaurant.

Outside Midwinter Green restaurant.

The outdoor seating took my breath away with its dim lightings and candles on each table. There was also a stage outside with a live band. I would say it would make a perfect date night! However, being me, I could not appreciate it that much as I wonder how long would anyone’s bowl of cream of mushroom soup remain hot out in the cold? 15 seconds or less? Haha! 😀

The restaurant’s property is amazingly lit. Alas, food wise… … I would say for the price I paid for, it was definitely going to the ambience. I could get better food with such a price point elsewhere I reckon, but of course that is just my opinion.

Unless you just want to splurge and have a chill expensive dinner night out, I would think you can just give this restaurant a miss.

Khao Yai National Park (Important Information)

Address:There are 2 entrances into Khao Yai National Park.

Khao Yai National Park Southern Fee Entrance Station
Noen Hom, Mueang Prachinburi District, Prachin Buri 25230, Thailand

Khao Yai National Park Northern Fee Entrance Station
Lam Takhong Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand

I would reckon most of us would be coming in from the Northern entrance as most accommodations are located there.
Operating Hours of  Khao Yai National Park:06 00 – 18 00 daily
Entrance Fee: (one-time payment into the park will allow you to see all the sights within the park)Adult Foreigner: 400 Baht / pax

Child Foreigner: 200 Baht / pax

Local Adult: 40 Baht / pax

Local Child: 20 Baht / pax

NOTE: Entrance ticket is only valid for 1 day. If you are setting up camp or staying in some bungalows in the National Park, then the ticket is valid for 3 days!
Recommended length of visit:~ 6 – 8 hours
Overall Personal Rating of National Park: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (a brush of fresh air in the outskirts)

Day 2 Highlights: Haew Suwat Waterfall (in Khao Yai National Park)

Operating Hours:follow that of Khao Yai National Park
Recommended length of visit:~ 1 hour
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

We were there at about 09 00 and there were already quite a handful of people. From the parking lot, we had to walk 200 m on uneven ground and down a series of flight of stairs. Definitely wearing firm gripping shoes is much needed.

You need to navigate through loose rocks underfoot and boulders before having the waterfall directly right in front of you.

To get a more artistic angle of the waterfall, venture further towards a mini cave-like indent on the right. Not much people would manoeuvre their way there, so you have quite a bit of personal space to enjoy the waterfall!

This sight was definitely a nice way to start the cold morning!

Day 2 Highlights: Haew Narok Waterfall (in Khao Yai National Park)

Operating Hours:follow that of Khao Yai National Park
Recommended length of visit:~ 1 hour
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂

We were there at about noon,  and oh boy the crowd was man insane. By this time, the weather was not very forgiving. The humidity, together with the mosquitoes, were starting to get to our skin.

We started with a gentle descend on concrete ground for about 10 minutes followed by crossing a wooden bridge. There was a rest point and a viewing area of the river before a flight of steps up.

View from the wooden bridge.

Thereafter, we had to make our way down a series of incredibly narrow steep steps to the viewing deck of the waterfall. Good thing there were handle bars on each side for people to have an additional grip, as it can be proven a challenge for some visitors.

There is no rush, so just take your time to make your way there!

Comparing Haew Suwat Waterfall and this waterfall, I would prefer the earlier. I guess the part of manoeuvring through the boulders and getting into the little cave-like indent still gets to me instead of just mere viewing the waterfall from the top deck down.

On a side note, not related to this waterfall… …We settled for a simple lunch at Noen Homme Café (just outside Khao Yai National Park, exiting the Khao Yai National Park Southern Fee Entrance Station), about 15 minutes’ drive from the waterfall.

Oh I have to say, their sliced cake was so so good. I am not sure if it was because I was so hungry, but it was really good. Haha! 😀

Day 2 Highlights: Khao Yai 30km. View Point (in Khao Yai National Park)

Mountainous vista from view point.
Operating Hours:follow that of Khao Yai National Park
Recommended length of visit:~ 20 minutes
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂

After speaking with Noen Homme Café owner, we took a longer respite and decided to forgo the other attractions that was planned. She recommended that we headed back as the sun was setting and the drive to the Khao Yai National Park Northern Fee Entrance Station was a distance away. She mentioned that wild animals tend to start roaming at dusk and can be a little dangerous.

Hence, we decided to just take our time to drive back to our accommodation up North now that we had quite a bit of time to spare having forgo an attraction or two!

This viewing point was unplanned. There were many cars parked on the side, and that caught our attention. We decided to follow suit and did not regret it! The view was amazingly calming! You can see the distant hills and the valley just below. It was evening and the cool breeze now envelopes the surroundings. A nice way to end of a day trip in Khao Yai National Park!

Day 2 Highlights: Dinner at ครัวหญ้าคาเขาใหญ่ (Thai Restaurant)

Address:101/3 หมู่5 ตำบลหมูสี ปากช่อง Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand
Operating Hours:10 00 – 20 00 daily
Personal Breakdown Rating: (out of 5)Ambience 🙂 🙂 🙂
Service 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Food Quality 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Overall Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Total Damage (per pax):~ 425 Baht (this also depends on what exactly you are order)
For only 2 girls, we sure did order a hell load!

It was a random Google searched restaurant just 5 minutes’ drive from our accommodation. We wanted to eat something local. For the price range and quality of Thai dishes, I would imperatively say I would go back again. Really not a bad Thai restaurant! Yum yum! Ah how I miss Thai food!

Day 3 Highlights: Palio Khao Yai

Operating Hours:Sunday – Thursday (08 30 – 21 00)
Saturday & Public Holiday (08 30 – 22 00)
Recommended length of visit:~ 1.5 – 2 hour
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂

We started the day by ambling through a shopping complex that is Tuscan village-themed. I would say there are probably only 3 reasons for you to decide on heading to Palio Khao Yai.

Uno: You are into little handmade trinkets and quirky-looking items for gifts and souvenirs.

Dos: You want a nice place to relax and have a cuppa; soaking up the chill Sunday vibes.

Tres: You want to have an Instagram-worthy shot or shots.

If you want none of the above, I would say just give this a miss. You are not really missing out. Haha! I would not go back to this place again. Not because it is not nice, but I guess themed places maybe isn’t my cuppa, if you know what I mean. Of course, if you are referring to themed parks then that’s totally different! 😀

But I must say this place would definitely score you some insta-worthy shots! That’s for sure!

Day 3 Highlights: The Chocolate Factory Khao Yai

Operating Hours:09 30 – 21 30 daily
Overall Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂
Total Damage (per pax):Approx. typical pricing in a café.

Aye… … I do not know how to put this gently, so just ‘no’ would suffice. That is basically all I can say. Unless you want to buy chocolates home as gifts or even just for yourself, I would not come here. I do not know if the chocolates are nice, because they do not give out samples, but J did bought like a couple back.

Her review and direct quote? ‘It’s not a must buy. Just buy for fun… …to show your support and presence there (Khao Yai).’

Well… ok my darlings, if you want to show your support for local products, then I guess, go right ahead.

We did not dine at the restaurant, just at the café, and had ordered 2 items off their menu. I suggested ordering a third item afterward, not because they were good, but because I wanted to wash down the previously 2 items ordered. It was just not to our taste.

I would say if you love After You Dessert Café in Bangkok, then just stick with that. You can skip this.

Day 3 Highlights: PB Valley Khao Yai Winery

Operating Hours:Sunday – Thursday (08 00 – 20 00)
Friday & Saturday (08 00 – 22 00)
Recommended length of visit:~ 1.5 – 2 hour

(if you are dining at the restaurant, then of course it would be longer)
Personal Rating: (out of 5)🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Other than the sunflower field which I was excited for, visit to this winery was also one of the top things I was looking forward to! I have never been on a vineyard, so I guess new experiences are always refreshing!

PB Valley Estate is the largest vineyard in Khao Yai. The Estate has wine tasting tours that includes a professional guided tour around the vineyard and the explanation about the various wines and grapes.

Guided tours are conducted 6 times daily, and it is about 70 minutes. For more details and booking, click here.

J and I on a working tractor, mind you. Haha!

We took the latest tour slot. I would suggest for that as it is much cooling in the evening and fewer people as well. You could also end off your tour with dinner at the restaurant!

TIPS?!

1If you want to visit the sunflower field, then December is the golden month for you. We went during the first week of December. The flowers bloomed perfectly and plentiful! As we were driving around Khao Yai, we saw many other smaller sunflower patches, so it was not only at Rai Maneesorn.
2We did not fully explore Khao Yai National Park, as it is pretty huge. However, there is one sight I thought it would be nice if we had gone to. Khao Chiew Viewpoint (Pha Diew Dai Cliff). Maybe you can check that out and see it for yourself! 😀

IGTV

I would say this mini road trip to Khao Yai was quite an all rounded one; covering some waterfall attractions, a sunflower field and a vineyard. If you are looking for a sweet escape from Bangkok’s city buzz, then Khao Yai is definitely a scene for you!

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world and Travel Whenever!

For now, let’s just stay home until it is safe.

Dee

Be frivolous. Be brave.

TravelWhenever

How to get around

Purchase Angkor Pass

Day 1 Highlights

Pre Rup Temple

Banteay Srei Temple

Angkor Wat Temple

Day 2 Highlights

Ta Prohm Temple

Bayon Temple

TIPS?!

Operating Hours: Most temples: 07 30 – 17 30 daily
Angkor Wat Temple & Srah Srang: 05 00 – 17 30 daily
Phnom Bakheng & Pre Rup: 05 00 – 19 00 daily
Entrance Fee: 1 Day Angkor Pass: USD $37
3 Days Angkor Pass: USD $62
7 Days Angkor Pass: USD $72
Children under 12 are not required to purchase a pass.
Passport needs to be presented for verification.
Recommended length of visit: ~ 2 Full Days
(depending on how intense you want to immerse yourself into the temple enigma)

My first time in Cambodia was never meant to be the main vacation destination per se. You see, we were travelling from Vietnam and were making our way to Thailand, and hence, we decided, alright… … why not just spend some time in Cambodia.

And so… … probably the shortest layover I had, we spend less than 48 hours in Siem Reap. We knew we had so much grounds to cover in such short time span. We really had to narrow down on our picks at the Angkor Archaeological Park. In hindsight, I reckoned we did make the best out of it! Though I wished I had more time to really immerse in the sunrise at certain temples. But oh well, there is always next time.

How to get around?

Our tuk tuk driver at the airport, whom we randomly picked out of a sea of other persistent taxi and tuk tuk drivers, turned out to be our main, well… … ONLY source of getting around during our less than 48 hours layover in Siem Reap.

After haggling hard over prices, we got ourselves a sweet private alfresco ride for USD $43; 2 days around anywhere within the Angkor Archaeological Park. We also got him to recommend a decent lunch spot for respite that was along the way to the sights. I would say, it was a pretty good deal.

The tuk tuk drivers near the Angkor region are pretty experienced. All we had to do was to tell our driver what were our narrowed down sights we were interested, and he would map out the best route for us!

Our driver, Mr Heang, was very patient as he waited for us at each temple site. And you do know, when girls snap photos, the wait can be long. REAL long. 😀 He was also accommodating when we wanted to stop over for lunch and wanted to do a little browsing at the shop nearby for clothes and souvenirs etc. Being very observant, we were always in awe by how he always manage to spot us amongst the horde of people. We would be at the entrance of the temple site, barely a few seconds in, scanning through the buzzing crowd, and he would already be waving at us or sometimes calling out to us.

So anyone who is going to embark on their temple exploration at the Angkor Archaeological Park, can hit Mr Heang up at (+855) 096 88 31034. This is in no way sponsored. I just thought he was a nice guy, his service was pretty much great and he gave good price! So yeah! 🙂

Purchase Angkor Pass

Before entering the park, the driver brought us to the official ticketing counters get our Angkor Pass. I know of some websites stating that you could purchase your Angkor Pass online, however, from my understanding, this online option has not be officially rolled out by Angkor Enterprise. Hence, if you do purchase your pass online, I guess it would be at your own risk.

My humble suggestion would be for you to just get your driver to take you to the official Angkor Park Pass Ticket Counters. The counter staff are really efficient. We were there at around 10 am, and did not take long at all to get our pass.

The 1 Day Angkor Pass was a slightly more popular option, so that queue was a little longer. That would be something to consider if you are going for this option.

Day 1 Highlights: Pre Rup Temple

Pre rup is a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It was built in 961 AD. Being the first attraction of the day, we were imperatively mesmerised by the whole Indiana Jones vibe it was exhuming. From afar, we were greeted by 3 main towers. You could head up to the upper platform for a nice elevated angle via the long flight of stairs. The intricate details of the ruin pillars together with the brick walls made this whole walk through out of this world.

What I love about this site was that it was not as crowded as the other temples. We were there at about 10.30 am, it was quite peaceful. We spend about an 1 hour marvelling and snapping shots. 😀

Day 1 Highlights: Banteay Srei Temple

Banteay Srei is also a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. This temple definitely has more complex stone carvings than Pre Rup. Because of the elaborate carvings, it was said that it was craved by the hands of women, as these were too fine for the hand of a man.

Compared to Pre Rup, I was even more enraptured with Banteay Srei. I guess it has to be the labyrinthine corridors and walkways through nicely carved doors and steps that made this whole experience magical. I felt like I could lose myself in this maze. Not literally, of course.

We spend about 1.5 hours here.

Day 1 Highlights: Angkor Wat Temple

And of course no one would ever miss Angkor Wat when here at the Angkor Archaeological Park; no matter how touristy this temple is! Most people would come for the sunrise. But it is just as amazing if you could look beyond the crowd and pay attention to the small details of the monument.

Take time to look at the ceiling and the pillars. Some of them have inscriptions written in Sanskrit and Khmer. This temple can be difficult to grasp because of the vastness and many pathways leading you to new findings. To really explore every corner of Angkor Wat, you most certainty need ample time. Alas, time was definitely something we did not have. For this, I would say this would be my first stop if I ever would to come back!

We spend about 2.5 hours here.

Day 2 Highlights: Ta Prohm Temple

Now this is by far, in my opinion, the most jaw-dropping sight here at the Angkor Archaeological Park. This temple saw a surge in popularity ever since it appeared in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, back in 2001. Build as a Buddhist monastery, Ta Prohm has traditional Khmer structures.

What makes this temple so out-of-this-world unique is how the Cambodian jungle managed to get itself intertwined with the structure of the temple. Silk-cotton and fig trees took root between the loosened stones that made the temple foundation, forming what we now see: a seamless merger of nature and man-made. It was indeed an overwhelming sight!

Though we felt we could and would love to spend more time here, we only took a mere 40 minutes. It was only slightly past 9 and not even 10, but the crowd was really starting to populate the compound and it was starting to get a little claustrophobic. We decided to take our leave.

Day 2 Highlights: Bayon Temple

Known as the ‘face temple’, for a very obvious reason. The iconic peaceful smiling looking visages you will espy from any and every angle as you amble around Bayon Temple can take you to another level, literally. At times you have stone carved heads glaring down at you, and at times, these head would be at your peripheral vision.

Make your way to the upper tier to have a better view, and soak in the serenity of the 200 faces from all angles, which are the emblem of inner peace.

I was not really sure what was the occasion, or this temple is really a popular tourist site, but the horde of crowd that flooded this temple was beyond words. We too only took a mere 40 minutes. It was roughly 10 odd in the morning. So FYI for your travel planning!

TIPS?!

1 If you are planning to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, then purchase your Angkor Pass the day before. Any Angkor Pass sold after 5 pm is valid for the next day. You do not want to be stuck in an insane queue just to get your pass and then rushing to Angkor Wat to catch the sunrise. It would be too much stress to handle in the morning ya?
2Apparently the dress code has become more stringent over the years, and the guards working do enforce this pretty strong now. Wearing tank tops, bare shoulders tops, shorts and skirts that show flesh above the knees are considered disrespectful. So probably don’t take the risk, and bring a shawl for cover up if needed. Or just don’t wear any of those.
3If you want avoid great loads of people wandering the temples alongside you, then I suggest you start your adventure early? I would say 7 would be a good time to start. Though to face facts, there is no way to avoid the crowd when you are at Angkor Wat any time of the day.

Even though we might have seen countless pictures of the Angkor temples, nothing ever comes close to the actual experience of seeing them and walking through the monument yourself. Every temple has a different story to tell, and to say which is the best, or the must see, is really subjective. All I could say is, I have no regrets narrowing down to these 5 temples.

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world and Travel Whenever!

Dee

Route:

The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls –>  Routeburn Track –> The Divide

Total Distance:

~ 10 km (6.2 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 7.5 – 8 hours (round trip)

(with plenty of time to take great shots, lunch & a quick swim under the waterfall)

Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?!

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

The Routeburn Track is the ultimate alpine adventure that links Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park in the South West of South Island New Zealand. This tracks would take you through some unbelievable ice-carved valleys that stretched beyond your wildest peripheral vision. With majestic snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and meadows, it is no wonder this track is so popular amongst locals and tourists!

With Milford Sound also located nearby this track, it is no surprise that the Te Anau vicinity provides the most beautiful, serene scenes in trekking. And if you are strapped for time or do not want such a long trekking expedition, then refer to the ‘TIPS?!’ section in this article for alternative  routes you could consider! The thing I love about trekking is that it can suit anyone and everyone of varied fitness- AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THE PASSION, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 😀


 

How to get there?

Though Te Anau township is the closest to Routeburn Track, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. According to Google Map, a straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you to the start of Routeburn Track in approximately 1 hr 9 mins (slightly shorter than the drive to Lake Marian). However, we took slightly longer as we had respites a.k.a taking photos! Haha! New Zealand is just so beautiful, everywhere is just a perfect picturesque sight you know. WE JUST HAD TO STOP TO SNAP! 😀

Turn right upon seeing the small brown signage ‘The Divide’. Routeburn Track carpark is just there.

 

Highlights and Views

On Routeburn Track

Considering the estimated time needed to complete the entire trekking route, I remember we woke up relatively early for this trekking experience. And oh boy, was this all worth every minute awake. By the time we got to The Divide it was about 8-ish am, the morning sun had already peaked out.

We started on our trek passed the initial canopy of forested area and soon the route started to open up to a whole new world- literally. It was at that point that it hit me like the shafts of sunlight raying down. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

And yes, I have seen many mountainous sight when in New Zealand and they all put me in great awe, but this was just inexplicably different. Accompanied by the absolute fresh crisp morning breeze and the mountains in the great distance beyond the valleys, I was really just speechless. It was perfect.

Up the Key Summit Trail

You will reach an intersection either heading towards the Key Summit or Lake Howden. We decided to first head for the Summit- considering this was the highlight; and just in case the perfect weather decides to go south etc.

The climb up the Summit through the alpine was pretty glorious as well. The view of the Hollyford valley was pretty magnificent from way up!

At the Summit

After trekking approximately 2 hours (from The Divide) with a few respites of STOP-AND-SNAP, when we finally arrived at the Summit!

The view of the mini pond with the snow-capped mountain as backdrop was all I longed to see on the Routeburn Track. And it was exactly how I pictured it. Pristine pond surrounded by damped mosses, it was a view that will remain etched in my mind.

It was quite a tranquil experience. Though, the Routeburn track is a popular route to most people in the Te Anau region, it was surprising that there were not many fellow trekkers hanging around the ‘final destination’. Where could they all be, I wonder?

Because we hadn’t really eaten breakfast, we had our first meal of the day ON A (FREAKING) MOUNTAIN! How awesome was that! A meal with a priceless view. It was such a bliss to just sit on a boulder, with the sun shining down, holding on to a cookie, munching and having a peripheral view of the Darran Mountains.

To be honest, I will do anything to go back and relive the moment with simplicity at its best! #travelmemories

Back on Routeburn Track en route to Lake Howden

We ate, took tons of photos, and told each other how we wished the moment never past. It was our longest rest we had (for about 1 hr 45 mins). Well… … Time flies when you are being in the moment and embracing the view, no?

Then it was time (close to noon) to get up on our arses and back on the Routeburn Track heading towards Lake Howden and then to Earland Falls!

When we arrived at the Howden Hut, which is next to Lake Howden, it was about an hour past noon. Howden Hut is a camping facility for campers who do overnight treks. I understand from fellow trekkers along the way that some had travelled from the Queenstown and were making their way to Te Anau.

So basically they trekked from Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. We witnessed a father and young son, probably 12 – 13 years old, on this very long journey. Kudos to the dynamic father and son duo! Alas, I am not that adventurous yet to try an overnight trekking expedition! Haha! Maybe one day… …

Earland Falls

About an hour trek from Lake Howden, we arrived at the almighty Earland Falls! To be honest, when we were at Lake Howden, we were contemplating if we should give Earland Falls a miss. We were considering the amount of daylight we had left, and if we could make it back to the carpark before dark.

But being already in the middle of nowhere surrounded by forest and lake, we decided we shouldn’t leave the place without finishing what we started off. And I am very glad I have a travel partner who wouldn’t quit on me. She was alright with not seeing Earland Falls, but knowing me well enough (that I wanted to carry on), she pressed on with me. So thanks girl!

We wasted no time to dilly-dally, and scurried through the forest gingerly on uneven route underfoot!

I usually espied waterfalls from a great distance. But, this time, the 174 metres Earland waterfall was the closest I had gotten to a waterfall! It was so majestic! It was literally right in front of us. We could feel the mist! We could totally go in for a swim beneath the falls and feel its wrath as the waters spattered!

The crystal clear cold waters was just so tempting for us to soak ourselves in after a long and hard’s trek. We left Earland Falls, at about 3.40 pm, and made it back before dark! We were totally exhausted after that! Haha! 😀 But it was extremely worth it! I was so glad we did not give a miss to Earland Falls. In hindsight, it was definitely worth the extra distance trekking.


 

TIPS?!

Alternative Trekking Routes (important read)

When planning for this track, I was pretty ambitious. Because I did not want to do an overnight trek, but still would like to cover key sights, I had this personal route initially mapped out as shown below.

The Divide –> Routeburn Track (first bypass Key Summit Lookout Trail) –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls Lake Howden –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide

However, when we arrived at the junction to make a decision to bypass the Key Summit and head to Lake Howden and Earland Falls first, we decided it was best to go to the Summit first instead (just in case we were strapped for time, and also considering weather changes).

And were we so glad we made this decision to go to the Summit first. Firstly, the view at the Summit was with obvious reasons exquisite! I am not saying Lake Howden and Earland Falls are not at all worth the trip- they are. But in all honestly, I will pick the view at the Summit any day over the rest.

However, if you are confident that time is not of the essence, then I guess which route you take doesn’t really matter?

If you are not looking at such a long trekking experience, then forget about Lake Howden and the Earland Falls. Just take a journey up the Summit. It would be a view worth it! This route would take about 4 hours return trip.

The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide

Yes, I know the signage stated 3 hours return trip, but to be honest guys, of all our walks in New Zealand, never had we actually completed our treks (excluding photography and respites) based on the timings on the board. Never. So a tip is to add 1 – 1.5 hours to your planning?

Start Early!

We woke up at 4.30 at the crack of dawn. We must be crazy you say, but trust me it will be all worth it when you are 919 metres above sea level. Also, if you are getting on the long trekking route to visit Earland Falls, you would need those extra time of daylight!

Lunch + Swim wear

Because it was an entire day’s out in the forest, packed lunch of simple sandwich, cookies and fruits are much needed! Not to mention, your energy drink! You will need it!

We did not have our swim gear with us, so we did not have a go in the waterfalls. We see many trekkers very much prepared, and after a long trek, they all went in for a nice cool off in the waters! So if you wish to, bring your swim wears!

Safety first

I reckon going on any walks in New Zealand would be safer during Summer. The Great Walks season is during end October to end April. For detailed information about the Routeburn Track walk do take time to look at the brochure.

 

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

So last year I partnered with GPSMyCity to convert my travel article “Sights & Sounds: Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai” on the TravelWhenever site, to a GPSMyCity travel article app that can be viewed offline! For details on that, click here.

This year, GPSMyCity announced plans to introduce subscription to their travel article apps. The subscription option is now available on iTunes, with Google Play due to follow suit shortly (due to technical reasons). Effectively, GPSMyCity app users can now purchase annual subscription at US$12.99/year with full access to all travel articles for 900+ cities worldwide OR at US$18.99/year with full access to all our walking tours + travel articles covering 1,000+ cities.

I have 10 free one-year subscriptions (worth US$18.99 each) to be given away. To enter this international giveaway, there’s only one rule: Simply place a comment on this article you are reading now regarding your planned/planning travel destinations for 2018!

It would be nice if you could follow me on Instagram: @travelwhenever as well! 😀

I am most interested to know where avid travel lovers are heading this year, ya?! The giveaway entry period will last for 2 weeks from the date that this article is published.

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world to see and give back! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

How to get there? + TIPS?! (MUST READ) 

Best season to visit? 

Getting around Nami Island? 

What you might see/experience (during early winter)? 

TIPS?! 

Address:

1 Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea

Operating Hours:

07 30 – 21 45
Entrance/Ferry Fee:

W$ 8000/pax (one round trip)

Recommended length of visit:

Half day – 1 full day

Despite the wretched cold that caused me to have multiple brain freezes, numb fingers and toes, I might have left my warm heart turned frozen in Korea. Ah Korea oh Korea, what have you done to me? Many things apparently. I experienced so much in just 10 days. From the Korean culture, to the food and the sights, it was really a trip I won’t forget. To add on to that, it was my first time experiencing snowfall! It was a cold winter morning; we were on our merry way to church! So HALLELUJAH to that.

And I decided that of all the sights I have had the bliss to experience during my virgin trip to Korea with my Mama Dearest, I would like to start with Nami Island! The island is so huge (in my eyes) that there was really so much to see and be in complete awe about. Everywhere you turn, the peripheral view is just so breathtaking!

Nami Island is a half moon-shaped isle formed as a result of the inundated rising water from the North Han River due to the construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam in 1944. In 2006, Nami Island declared its cultural independence and was called Naminara Republic. This island has its own national flag, an anthem, currency, passport and even certificate of citizenship. Like what what? Interesting huh…?

So if you were thinking if you need to bring your passport and have a different currency (other than the Korean Won) when on the island for transaction, the answer is no. You just need a ‘visa’ to enter Naminara Republic! So how do we get a ‘visa’ to Nami Island? Read ‘How to get there?’.

How to get there? + TIPS?! (MUST READ)

Nami Island is 63 km from Seoul in the North-Eastern direction towards Chuncheon. The easiest mode of transportation to the island is by the subway, then a quick bus/taxi ride and lastly a ferry ride. No cars are allowed on the island, so if you decide to drive, you would have to park your vehicle at the Namiseom Dock Parking Lot near the jetty and subsequently board the ferry. I obviously took public transportation. So here’s how it went:

1. From Seoul, take the subway to Gapyeong station (~1 hr 30 mins – 1 hr 50 mins train ride).

2. Upon alighting, take the exit on the right. You would see the Tourist Information centre outside of the subway station. Approach the staff to confirm the timing for the Gapyeong City Tour Bus that is heading to Nami Island. The bus stop is just in front of the Tourist Information centre. If you do not want to take the Gapyeong City Tour Bus, then a value for money alternative would be taking a taxi.

Easy ways to get to Nami Island Ferry Terminal (Gapyeong Wharf) from Gapyeong station

Gapyeong City Tour Bus

W$6000/pax (payment to driver; CASH)
Taxi

~ W$4000 (taximeter; so the price may vary)

A maximum of 4 passengers

TIPS?! (MUST READ!)

To take the Gapyeong City Tour Bus OR Taxi?

The reason why the Gapyeong City Tour Bus is a little pricey as compared to the taxi is because this is a hop on and off tour bus! A one-time payment (in cash) to the driver would allow you to go to places of interest near the vicinity for that one day of purchase.

Popular places like the Petite France and Morning Calm Arboretum (a.k.a Garden of Morning Calm) are all accessible via this tour bus. It is super convenient, especially if you would like to cover other places and not just focus on Nami Island for the day.

So if you would like to visit Petite France and Morning Calm Arboretum, together with Nami Island, then I suggest you plan your time very accurately to ensure you have sufficient time spend at each attraction. See the tour bus timetable schedule (below) to aid you.

GRAB A HARDCOPY OF TOUR BUS BROCHURE FROM THE TOURIST INFORMATION COUNTER AS WELL! This will give you all the needed important information; like the bus schedule timings.

HOWEVER… …

If you are going to spend the entire day at Nami Island, or are just interested in Nami Island and not the other attractions, then the taxi is imperatively a better value alternative.

3. The Gapyeong City Tour Bus from Gapyeong station would take an approximately 10 minutes to Nami Island bus stop, where you would have to head towards the ferry terminal (Gapyeong Wharf) (less than 100 m) to purchase your ‘visa’/ferry ticket/entrance ticket at W$ 8000/pax.

4. The ferry ride from Gapyeong Wharf is about 5 minutes to Nami Island. And violà, YOU HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED ON NAMI ISLAND where you can have some awesome exploration!

Operating Hours (Ferry Schedule)

07 30 – 09 00

30 minute intervals
09 00 – 18 00

10 – 20 minute intervals

18 00 – 21 40

30 minute intervals

Best season to visit?

Now this question is very subjective. It really depends on what you would like to experience. Is it the lush green full grown trees that sprawl the island or the red-orange crisp of autumn leaves or even the pristine rows of bare trees rooted to the ground of white snow and beyond that fancies you?

In hindsight, I would say visit Nami Island in its full blown AUTUMN season.

I mean, Nami Island in its transitioning from autumn to winter, or even in full blown winter won’t be half bad at all. But I reckoned the fall colours that would hang off the rows of trees would be most breathtaking!

Of course, if you are into the whole winter wonderland and snowfall showers, then winter season would just be perfect for you. I had my fair share of cold in Korea that I can endure and I have concluded that the cold isn’t what I need if I wanted to really immerse into the environment. When I was on Nami Island, I was basically trying to keeping warm 80% of the time by either chilling out in cafes with hot lattes or in souvenir shops!

So yeah, thinking back, if given a chance to go to Nami Island again, I would opt for an autumn option! 😀

Getting around Nami Island?

1. Walking

My Dad once said, on a fine night in Bangkok, whilst we were along the streets, ‘Walking is the best way to explore and experience a new place. You get to see a lot more.’ And I agree with him completely. If my legs can take me places forever, and never feeling the ache and fatigue, I would walk to explore new places (provided time permits of course). There are just so many sights to see and snap photo of at your own pace! You just have to stroll! It can be very therapeutic.

2. Biking

Just like most parks, there would be an option for people who wants to move around on 2 wheels! The Bike Center is located in the middle of the island, near UNICEF Hall.

Type of Bike

Cost
One-person

W$ 4000 (30 minutes)

W$ 7000 (1 hour)

Tandem

W$ 8000 (30 minutes)

W$ 14000 (1 hour)

Quadruplet

W$ 15000 (30 minutes)

Electronic bicycle

W$ 10000 (30 minutes)

W$ 18000 (1 hour)

There are also other means of getting around the island: the UNICEF Train Ride, the Electronic car tour and via the Motor boat tour. For more details, click here.

What you might experience (during early winter)?

I was there in early December and it was in transition from autumn to winter. It wasn’t in full blown winter, but it already had aspects of winter sprouting. For instance, the cold was unbearable (for me), at -9 oC. The pavements and walkways were cover in ice and snow, some more slippery than others. Visitors had this huge pile of snow to play with and snow sculptures were seen all around.

However, the trees weren’t all bare. Some trees still insist on holding on tight to the orange autumn leaves or even its green ones too. A variety of colours from a tinge of red-orange and green in a sea of white icy ground really compliments each other; making the scene extra magical.

Nami Wharf

So when you have alighted at the wharf on Nami Island, you would be greeted by this ice fountain sculpture, which was an amazing sight if you have never visited Nami Island. Excited tourist would be hogging the vicinity to take a snap or two!

As we ventured further, we saw rows of trees to the right and left side. It was a pretty sight. On a normal summer’s day, we would probably continue to walk towards the east side of the island. But because it was freezing, so we decided to find a café to warm up. Based, on the map, we decide to walk towards the nearest café near the wharf; near The Song Museum, and landed ourselves in the Swing Café for the next few hours. Haha!

Swing Café

The view along Swing café was pretty amazing. Facing the river, the tranquil semi-frozen water and the hill opposite were just in perfect cosmos. Taking a stroll along the river could just be the perfect activity to do to find peace! The stretch just behind the café was a perfect autumn-winter scene. It was totally breath-taking. Speechless.

And because it was cold enough, you would find ice snowman sculptures everywhere! Just like this mini one; chilling on the bench! So adorable, don’t you think so? Haha! 😀

Central Korean Pine Tree Lane/Baekpungmilwon Maple Garden

We took a stroll down this lane and saw many people playing in a huge snow pile at the garden next to it! It was such a fun scene. Kids were having a blast, whilst mothers were busy trying to ensure their little ones were safe. Even adults were up on the snow pile!

Despite many people walking about, somehow the tree lane area seem pretty much peaceful. The evening sunset did set the mood for the perfect walk, with amazing views. What is there to really ask for, seriously? It was perfect.

The Song Garden

Along the Pine Tree Lane, was an enclosure where ostriches were kept. Bunnies were also roaming the area. It was so cute. The UNICEF Train track was just in front of the ostrich enclosure. It was definitely a nice picture worthy moment. Haha!

First Kiss Glass Sequoia Bridge/Eco Farm Yeonryeonji Pond

The pond was in its semi-frozen to frozen state. And because the bridges were pretty much covered with ice, we decided it wasn’t worth for us to risk slipping and decided to move on a little further to cover more ground as it was getting dark soon.

UNICEF Hall/Artshop Snowman May Café

Alas, we ended our exploration on Nami Island here. It was freezing, the sun was setting, and we had a long journey back to the city.

TIPS?!

(a) Squeezing other attractions (e.g. Petite France & Garden of Morning Calm) in 1 day?

Since the other attractions are conveniently reachable by the Gapyeong City Tour Bus, most online articles or people would recommend you to include Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm along with Nami Island.

Well, in hindsight, I say the best combination to work with and get maximum relaxation and exploration would be to visit Nami Island on its own (a half day to a full day; whichever you are comfortable with). And visit Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm together on a separate day. Why?

Though Nami Island is not a very big island, it really has so many picturesque sights that would leave you in deep awe. There would be many moments you cannot resist to stand at a particular spot longer than expected. A nice slow-paced stroll pass the trees and chilling at the café or restaurant could easily pass the time and making it an entire day’s visit! Trust me!

(b) Head to the ‘OTHER’ side of the Island

The cold really did hit us back hard, and we spend more time in the café than we would like to. Alas, we did miss a few key highlights that one should not miss when on Nami Island, but hey that was fine. The most important thing was that we enjoyed ourselves on the island at a comfortable pace.

Some key highlights I do hope to see given a second chance would be:

(i) Ginkgo Tree Lane

(ii) Metasequoia Lane

Most of the famous sights are on the right side of the island (based on the brochure map). So if you are pressed for time, then you might want to skip what is in between and dive straight to the other side of the island! 🙂

(c) Go on a Weekday and Go in the Morning

It would usually be more crowded on the weekends, so if possible try to head over to Nami Island on a weekday! Unless you do not mind the crowd getting into your pictures when you are at Metasequoia Lane than I guess any time and any day wouldn’t matter at all. Haha! 😀

(d) Staying a night on Nami Island

There are accommodations available on the island if you would like to spend a night. The boutique hotel offers room types with beds or Korean-style heated floors (ondol). There are also bungalows and cottages suitable for couple, family or group stays. Though I have not stayed on the island before, I reckon this would be a memorable experience. You could probably enjoy the serene vicinity at night, as you stargaze? Isn’t that perfect? Haha! I would like to think so! 😀

Hope this prods you to capture some beauty around you! ‘Cause the world is really perfect when you have a kind heart willing to see it!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

How to get there? 

Best time to visit? 

Getting around Singha Park? 

What you might experience? 

TIPS?! 

Address:

99 Moo 1, Mae Korn, Amphoe Chiang Rai, Chaing Rai, Thailand 57000

Operating Hours:

Daily 09 00 – 18 00
Entrance Fee:

FOC; but you do need to pay for other activities you would like to engage in

(e.g. zip lining or wall climbing etc.)

Recommended length of visit:

~ half to a full day

(depending on how intense you want to immerse yourself)

I was blown right away by the picturesque sight I got when we first arrived at Singha Park. Singha Park is the largest agricultural tourism destination in Thailand. Located 450 metres above sea level, and with hectares of fertile soil, this park just blooms beautiful flora all year round!

There is so much to do at Singha Park, from just mere strolling and enjoying solace, to having an awesome bike ride through the tea plantations and lakes to even zip lining and wall climb, and of course, good old fashion chilling at a quaint café enjoying a nice cuppa or two!

Singha Park, owned by Boon Rawd Brewery (the company that manufactures Singha Beer), thus the name Singha Park, would disappoint any visitor who thinks that he/she would find breweries after breweries and endless supply of Singha Beer. This park in the countryside is a family-friendly establishment that really has more hectares of land for tea plantation beyond the horizon than beer supply.

Opened to the general public in 2012, Singha Park was previously known as Boon Rawd Farm. The rich fertile soil that sprawled was once used to grow barley for the beer production. Currently, some areas of Singha Park are left for the original barley fields, but most large land are now for orchards and tea plantations.

 

How to get there?

Car

Since we had the rented car, getting there was pretty simple and so straightforward; with the help of Google Maps of course! We stayed at The Imperial River House Resort in Chiang Rai, quite centrally located I would say.

From the resort, it was approximately a 30 minutes’ drive to Singha Park. You know you have arrived when you see the huge iconic landmark of the Singha mascot!

Tuk- Tuk/ Taxis

Not renting a car? Then the tuk-tuk or the taxi are probably the next most convenient alternative! I am sure you can haggle over the price with them too. But I suggest a rented car or even a motorcycle is still imperatively more convenient.

 

Best time to visit?

Singha Park is open all year round, but visiting the park at the end or early start of the year would render you with much more special memories! Here are 2 reasons why!

1. Cool Season

Firstly, the cool season in Chiang Rai is between November and January. With Mother Nature on your side warding off the sultry humidity, it makes every activity you do so much more bearable right?

Minus the heavy downpour during our first visit to the park and had to seek refuge at a restaurant to have lunch and tea whilst waiting for the rain to subside, the weather was really inundatedly perfect on the second visit. Though a little melancholic and drizzly at intervals, it was cool and breezy; just perfect for strolls and explorations!

2. Singha Park’s Organised Events

When we were there, organisers were setting up for Farm Festival On The Hill. Alas, we were scheduled to leave, if not, we would probably jump at the opportunity for an experience! This annual Farm Fest is the largest music fest in the North of Thailand; with leading music artists all across Thailand coming together and jamming.

Yeah sure it’s not Coachella, but hey we can always embark on new experiences at least once right? Sure I would totally not understand Thai lyrics, but I would probably still enjoy the positive ambience flowing!

And not to mention the International Balloon Fiesta? If I could travel during the period Singha Park was organising the event (14 – 18 February 2017), I would totally go for it. This annual event is a hot air balloon festival and international hot air balloon race. It is also a food fest and a concert by Thai artists. It is basically a whole package of joy where we could get to see an array of colourful giant balloons float up to the sky. I can only imagine a picture-perfect moment!

So if you want to have the full experience at Singha Park, I suggest you click here for more updated details on their upcoming events!

 

Getting around Singha Park?

Walk

Your legs can take you far but frankly not far enough. To rely on your legs to walk close to the entire park would be a little insane, right?

But that was apparently what we did. We must be crazy at that point in time. I recalled towards the end of the day, we were quite tired and we were sort of lost. Haha! We were to tempted to just hitch a ride out to the entrance.

Now the reason why we didn’t rent a bicycle at the entrance was because we knew that  we would spend a long time in the park. We also knew that we wanted to chill for lunch and all that jazz. You know, just have a chill lazy day at the park.

And knowing the fact that we had to return the bikes where we rented from and not return it at another rental bike shop inside the park, we weren’t really sure it was a good idea to rent the bike at the entrance. Since we wanted to explore more deeper into the smaller roads and not solely on the bike trials, we decided to just walk.

Well, with hindsight, if I would redo this first/second visit again, I would still walk. Haha! Yes yes I know, my legs would kill me, but I got so much more experience from walking. So why not?

Bicycle

Now I know I’ve said that I would prefer walking, but… …in hindsight, IF I had been to Singha Park many times, then my option of getting around the park would be definitely using a bicycle. Haha!

With the bike, I could cover more grounds, and quicker! Since I would have seen most of the attractions already, visiting the park would be more of a touch and go and less immersing. So it is really up to your personal preference on how you want to enjoy your visit.

The bikes were for rent at 150 Baht/hr for the tandem, 100 Baht/hr for the mountain bike and 50 Baht/hr for the children’s bike. There are various bike trails to choose from the information map which indicates the length of the ride in kilometres and level of difficulty for each trail. Do note that all cyclists are required to register at the bike desk before setting off on any trails in the park.

Tram

The tram ride carries visitors to key highlights of the park. From the entrance, to the orchards, to the blooming flowers, to the petting zoo and also the zip lining and wall climbing area. Tram tickets are sold at the information counter at the entrance. The pricing at 50 Baht for an adult and 25 Baht for a child. On busy periods, like the weekends, the wait time to board the tram may be longer, so do be prepared for that. Trams run at ½ hour intervals between 10 am and 5 pm. This is a definite family-friendly option if you are visiting Singha Park with children.

 

What you might experience?

We covered everything by foot (in roughly this order), minus the petting zoo and the zip lining/ wall climbing- we did not do those. So yeah, it is possible. You could totally do this by walking! Just remember we did have intervals of respite at restaurants etc. We were, after all not visiting Singha Park to torture ourselves. Haha!

1. Golden Singha Mascot (labelled #1 on the Singha Park’s map)

This salient golden Singha mascot kings over the entire open field at the entrance opposite the carpark. Because it would be the first and last icon every visitor would see, naturally it was an obligatory selfie/wefie shot for everyone! Haha! 😀 If you did not have your photo taken with this Singha mascot, then you have not been to Singha Park.

Want a little intimate time with just the Singha mascot and you in the photo? Either you arrive early in the morning or have your photo with it when the park is about to close at 6! Perfecto!

2. Sunflower Patch (labelled #2 on the Singha Park’s map)

This attraction is by far the one I would remember forever. On the official Singha Park’s map, it is close to #2 (near the swan lake).

I have never seen a sunflower field before. And yes, this is not exactly a huge sunflower field that stretches for hectares on end. But hey, I would take it gladly! I remember being so excited for it.

I was literally screaming with excitement and running towards it. It was actually quite hilarious. We spend quite a bit of time snapping photos and just being in awe for these sunflowers. They were just so perfect. The only thing that compelled us to move on was when the drizzle started, if not, we probably would have stayed longer. Haha! 😀

3. Swan Lake (labelled #2 on the Singha Park’s map)

So because the drizzle which started small, soon got a little heavier, we ran up the hill from the sunflower patch towards the swan lake. Unplanned for it all, we took shelter under a tree while we watched the swans oblivious of it all, and just minding their own business.

Wish I could be like them, would life be so must simpler and happier? 😉 There is a tint of peace just watching the swans and being in the drizzle; like your worries were nothing but a phase and they really don’t matter at all.

4. Bhu Bhirom Restaurant & Tea Plantation (labelled #3 on the Singha Park’s map)

We needed to respite for lunch and to take shelter from the heavy drizzle. In the far distance, we espied a building which looked like a place we could fuel up. And unplanned to even have lunch at the Bhu Bhirom Restaurant, we brisk walked our way there anyway!

I reckoned the food was good, because on both days we visited the park, we had our meals at the same restaurant! The first time we were there, we ordered shrimp pad thai, minced meat tofu, fried calamari rings and green tea latte. On the second visit we ordered much more! It was either we were ravenous or we just decided to splurge a little because the ambience was just so prefect and we just wanted to have a nice hearty meal! We had shrimp tom yum soup, fried chicken, beef fried rice, and fried calamari rings (yes, again)!

Since the weather was really lovely on our second visit to Singha Park, we requested to sit at the area with an unimpeded view of the tea plantation sprawled beneath us. With the gentle breeze brushing against our skin all so softy, and the air crisp, it was such an invigorating experience accompanying a picturesque expansive sight of the tea plantation indeed. Such an awesome meal with an amazing view. I really couldn’t ask for more.

Bhu Bhirom Restaurant which opens every day (11 am – 10 pm), not only serves North Thai specialities, they do have Western options. This place is imperatively worth a try!

5. Petting Zoo (labelled #6 on the Singha Park’s map)

This area probably attracts the young kids most. With the chance to get up close and personal with the animals such as the giraffes, cows, and zebras, I am sure it would be such a joy. You could have an opportunity to feed the animals too!

6. Barn House/ Farm Fest Area (labelled #5 on the Singha Park’s map)

This area is officially known as the Sports & Recreation Centre. To us, it is also known as the chillax café area. At the Farm Fest Area, there is a bike rental shed. You could also shop for merchandise and souvenirs. This area is also grounds for any Singha Park’s organised events like the Farm Festival On The Hill or the International Balloon Fiesta mentioned earlier.

Just opposite the shed is a quaint Barn House café! With the quiet ambience, the outdoor benches make chilling with a coffee and a cupcake really perfect! And with the cooling weather (at that time) to add into the mix, all just was in a cosmos! A prefect respite gem!

7. Zip Lining & Wall Climbing (labelled #7 on the Singha Park’s map)

For someone who is more intrigued by adventure, and has the budget for it, then this is the place for you.

Near the Barn House/ Farm Fest Area is the zip lining platform, which would give you the opportunity to have a panoramic view of the park and all its glorious tea planation. Alas, this zip lining experience is at a steep cost of 800 Baht per person. On the other hand, the rock wall climbing stands at 9 levels high which costs 150 Baht per person to have a try at it.

Unless you are into such activities and want to try it at least once, I reckon strolling or biking to immerse into the Singha Park’s ambience is really divine enough. Haha! 😀

 

TIPS?!

Go EARLY!

Because we didn’t know we wanted to spend so much time at the park, the first time we arrived at Singha Park was around lunch time or slightly later, and with the downpour that kept us stranded at Bhu Bhirom Restaurant, we really did not have much time to explore.

In hindsight, it is always nice to go earlier so you could really have a nice chill experience at the park! I am sure you would be kept very busy snapping photos as I did! 😀

Singha Park is a definite MUST-DO when in Chiang Rai. Duly thought through, the park is landscaped with bike trails, romantic lakes and meadows all making this a great attraction for locals and tourists!

So remember to Travel Whenever and have a nice stroll into the great beyond!

Dee

 

Day 2 Highlights

Wooden Houses of Woloan Village 

Vegetable Fields in Rurukan Village 

Mount Mahawu 

Lunch at Astomi Restaurant on Lake Tondano 

Lake Linow, Sulfur Lake 

TIPS?! 

This is a continuation of the pervious article on engaging a private tour with Safari Tours & Travel Co. in North Sulawesi for the whole family!

Click here if you are interested in how we spend our Day 1 with Safari Tours & Travel Co. at Manado! 

So now, let’s just dive right into Day 2 experiences! Since Day 1 was all about getting wet at Bunaken Island, near Manado city, so the following day, it was all about soaking up the sun and all its concomitants in the more rural areas!

Honestly, I did not expect to be inundated by the marvellous beauty of the mountainous countryside of North Sulawesi. Near the city of Tomohon and Tondano, you get to experience quirky villages, lakes that are so serene and air so amazingly fresh as you travel up the hills passing lustrous greens of vegetable fields. It was such an enrapturing encounter, especially for nature enthusiasts, where you can get a little taste of what the local area has to offer! Just amazing!

 

Day 2 Highlights: Wooden Houses of Woloan Village

The journey was about an hour’s car ride from our Mercure Manado Tateli Beach Resort to our first highlight of the day- the quirky little village of Woloan just about 2 km away from Tomohon city centre!

The sky was in its perfect cerulean blue and placid white fluffy patches of clouds pasted randomly all over. It was a pretty amazing day for exploration in the countryside. Since Tomohon is located on the mountainous region of North Sulawesi, the vicinity around it, like the Woloan village, experienced much cooler temperatures ranging in its 20s oC!

When we got out of the Safari Tours & Travel Co. van to take a nice walk around, we experienced the perfect bucolic surroundings of Tomohon. With temperature at about 20 oC odd, definitely much cooler than at Manado city (which was sweltering), and accompanied by the slow paced vibe of the countryside; everything all seems to be in the perfect cosmos as we wandered off to look at the incomplete (yet accessible for viewing) humble wooden knocked down houses.

To me, Woloan village is described as quirky because it really wasn’t like the typical village we would normally have had in mind. It was basically a place where the making of wooden products happen. In Woloan village, you could see how the Minahasan style houses were being built by the carpenters. You get to see the knocked down parts of a wooden house that were ready to be shipped or delivered.

For someone who is intrigued by carpentry and wooden house craft, this is probable a nice pit stop! According to our tour guide, the humble houses that we saw, which were built along the roadside, were actually up for sale. If you were interested, you could buy it straightaway. The house you were interested to purchase would be knocked down, and shipped to your address, along with an assembler, so you need not worry about assembling the house yourself!

And of course, a quirky little village calls for a few quirky family shot initiated by the brother truly; and photographer: the girlfriend. Haha! 😀

Because these wooden houses are known for its quality and good workmanship by the skilled carpenters, Woloan village receive orders even from resorts at Bunaken Island. Interesting… …

 

Day 2 Highlights: Vegetable Fields in Rurukan Village

Next up, was to drive towards Mount Mahawu, but to get there we had to pass Rurukan village, which had the most beautiful vegetable fields I have ever seen. Located at the foot of Mount Mahawu, this is a must stop place en route up Mount Mahawu. Just a 20 minutes odd drive from Woloan village, this place just screamed perfection; where the blues meets lustrous greens.

I reckoned this wasn’t part of our itinerary pit stop, it was meant for a pass by to Mount Mahawu. But after looking at the beauty that passed us by whilst in the van, it was just such a pity not to ask the tour guide to let us out to see the view and fill our lungs with the amazing cool crisp air (which, I will not lie, has a tinge of fertiliser smell- if you know what I mean). Of course, it had to have that smell, we were, after all, in an agricultural vicinity right? 😀 #ecotourism?

Hectares of plant terraces and hills that stretched beyond, and overlooking the city sprawling beneath it, just sunk me into the whole agricultural scene that I don’t get much off back home. A really pleasant experience with a good change of scenery once in a while!

 

Day 2 Highlights: Mount Mahawu

An approximately 5 minutes’ drive upslope from Rurukan village and we finally made it to Mount Mahawu! Or at least 1 step closer to the vantage point at Mount Mahawu! Really excited I was! I mean, it was my first time up a volcano! 😀

Well saying it was ‘1 step closer’ really is just a figure of speech. ‘Cause looking at the entrance, it was a hell load of steps up up up to the viewing point! There was no rest benches for respites (if I did recall correctly), only hand railings were built in the middle of the steps all the way to the top (which is better than nothing huh?).

Elevated at 1324 metres above sea level, the crater of Mount Mahawu is 180 metres wide and 140 metres deep with a distant backdrop of Mount Lokon. Once up at the viewing deck, we all had an unimpeded view of the dry crater beneath us. Though the sun shone fiercely at us all with darting sunrays, but since we were at least a thousand metres above sea level, the weather wasn’t really warm and humid. Cool breeze and all… …

The tour guide informed us that we could take a walk around the volcano. It would probably take about ½ to 1 hour? We decided not to do so, since it was already past lunch time. Hence, to ensure we made the most of it, considering the fact that we had actually arduously climbed a bunch of steps up, we decided to just follow the trekked path slightly inwards to see what other angular views of the horizons we could be getting.

And boy, was it amazing. Though, the tall grass and all were hindering our views, but we could definitely see the city sprawled beneath us. It was pretty doped! It reminded me of when I was up on Mount Wellington when I was in Hobart, Tasmania.

Just the thought of overlooking upon everyone down below was, to me, just a very serene experience somehow. It made me feel that the world is so huge, and sometimes, our problems aren’t really that big a deal and we should just think positive and move on- one deep breath at a time. 😀

On a side note, I believe it is my duty to inform everyone that at the entrance of Mount Mahawu laid a toilet facility. Thank you to whoever decided it was a great idea to build one, seriously. Having been on the road for a few hours from Manado City and having a few respites and all, sometimes nature calls are really larger than us, you know? ;P

 

Day 2 Highlights: Lunch at Astomi Restaurant on Lake Tondano

Address

Jl. Peleloan, Maesa Unima, Tondano Sel., Kabupaten Minahasa, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia

Personal Rating:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Total Damage  (per pax)

~ IDR $117500

We were definitely ravenous after all the climbing at Mount Mahawu, and it was time to have our late LUNCH! About a 30 – 40 minutes odd drive from Mount Mahawu down to Lake Tondano, Astomi Restaurant it was!

This restaurant stood on stilts on the waters located along the ever so tranquil Lake Tondano. We had to walk on a gangway made of wooden planks to cross over.

Never did I expect to be so impressed by the food that was served at this restaurant. I am not exaggerating at all when I say how prefect the food was. From the side dishes of stir-fried Kang Kong (Water Spinach), and some other vegetable (I have no idea the name of), to the corn and fish fritters and of course, the main star dish: mini lobsters, oh my goodness, they were all amazingly delish! For those who are allergic to prawns and lobsters, fret not. Another good option could be fried Tilapia fish. It was really good too!

We ordered a set each; 5 mini lobster sets and 1 fried Tilapia fish set. Each set came with a plate of vegetables, and 1 – 2 plate of fritters? I really do not know, ‘cause when the dishes came, they came in a swarm! I reckoned that because we ordered so much, they combined a few fritters into a single plate for us all to share. But what was definite, was that the mini lobsters was a plate for each person; which mean 1 person had about 5 – 6 mini lobsters! Oh man, that was mini lobsters heaven for me and my belly jelly!

Astomi Restaurant was so kind, they threw in 1 more extra plate of mini lobsters no charge at all. More lobster delights for all to share! Perfecto! With an amazing feast on the table, and the serene Lake Tondano as the backdrop, it was a lunch not to forget. I really wouldn’t mind heading back there again for a taste of the delish lobster at that reasonable price!

It was an impeccable late lunch experience by the lake, as we felt the cool lake breeze and enjoyed the calming waters and scrumptious meal prepared for us! My only issue was the pesky houseflies that kept hovering hungrily for our food and drinks. But for the delectable served with such a perfect backdrop, the houseflies aren’t even going to bother me. We just had to exercise some arms swiping whilst eating! 😀

 

Day 2 Highlights: Lake Linow, Sulfur Lake

It was already evening, with our bellies all well-fed after that incredible lunch. Even during lunch, we could already see the sun slowly creeping back into the horizon. If we had more time, our tour guide mentioned that we could go to the hot springs which was actually en route to Lake Linow. But since it was already quite late, we headed straight to Lake Linow, passing the hot springs.

Either because the sky was getting dark and most tourists had already visited Lake Linow earlier in the day, or the vicinity around Lake Linow was undergoing revamping hence most tourists wouldn’t want to visit this place for the time being, but either way, there wasn’t a soul there other than us.

It was quiet and melancholic. As compared to the afternoon at Rurukan village and up on Mount Mahawu, the scene at Lake Linow was a 180 o change. Gloomy and a little depressing. Lake Linow, when I visited, reminded me of those movies or dramas where the actor would take his row boat out into the lake in the thick fog, and just disappeared- no screams no body found, just vanished into the thick fog.

I was a little disappointed because I was pretty excited to see the change in the colour of the lake. The tour guide mentioned earlier in the day that waters in Lake Linow could change colour due to the sulfur content present in the water body. The sulfur present in the lake was said to be due to the Mahawu eruption that happened years years ago.

With the sunrays reflecting and refracting on the lake in the bright morning or afternoon, and accompanied with the sulfur content, that would explain why the waters in Lake Linow changed colour. Since sulfur is yellow, the water in Lake Linow would change between hues of yellow, amber, green and blue. But because, it was already close to dark, all we saw was a single shade of murky green. Haha! #maybenexttime

By right we should be able to smell the pungent odour of the sulfur from the lake. But when we were there, we didn’t really experience that. Probably if we had come earlier in the day, we might smell the rotten egg odour of the sulfur?

Alas, when we visited Lake Linow, the facilities were in renovating progress; the side roads and all. The café was also not in operation, and all lake activities also seized operation. We saw some Swan Leg-Paddle boats, which, if they were operating, could allow visitors have a go at wandering along the banks of the lake. That sounds intriguing… …

If you are wondering if swimming in the lake is allowed, then maybe we should all take a deep breath and think twice if we would want to soak our delicate bodies in high sulfur content? Haha! That should be your answer right there. 😛

 

TIPS?!

(a) Early morning at Lake Linow (reshuffling of itinerary sequence?)

As you would know, I wished we had the opportunity to see the changing colour of Lake Linow, but due to the timing of the day we were there, we experienced a melancholic sight. But hey, it was still all pretty cool and all.

Hence, I do suggest the best time to visit Lake Linow would be in the early morning when the air would still be crisp, the surroundings in serene and the temperature by the lake still being cool and chill. I bet the experience by the lake in the morning would bring about a pleasant and tranquil moment that would fill anyone up with wonderful memories and beyond!

Thus, probably putting Lake Linow as the first sight of the day to visit would be a better choice? Followed by Mount Mahawu before lunch? That could be a suggestion.

(b) Set off from Manado City earlier

It was literally a whole day affair, and we still missed out certain little aspects of the tour itinerary. Not that the whole trip wasn’t fun and all, but in hindsight, the timing can be adjusted a wee bit.

By the time we were up on Mount Mahawu, it was already slightly past lunch time, and had we set off slightly earlier, we would be right on track. I reckoned a comfortable timing to set off from Manado City would be around 8.30 am or even earlier if you would like to visit Lake Linow at an even much earlier timing in the morning.

(c) Proper footwear please?

Regrets in life happened at specific moments of the day when you thought to yourself how brazenly you felt you could survive climbing up and down a volcano with slippers on. What was I thinking at that morning? Hey, I have no idea… …

Climbing up a gazillion steps to the vantage point on Mount Mahawu was not at all easy with slippers. With poor gripping underfoot and walking on unlevelled ground, wearing slippers does make me feel that the strap was about to snap and give up on me. Oh imagine if that had happened… … Then I would have to walk around barefooted, and how enhancingly close to nature I would have been. Hhhhmmmm… …

Picture does speak a thousand words, but trust me when I say, you need to be there to really believe it. Believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world.

So get out there, and explore! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

Day 1 Highlights

Snorkelling at Bunaken Island + TIPS? 

Christ Blessing Statue 

Dinner at Wisata Bahari Seafood Restaurant 

Manado, capital city of North Sulawesi province of Indonesia. With majority of the locals being Christians, it is not uncommon to see so many churches just within walking distance from each other. Sitting in the van, passing through a village or city centre, the number of churches that zoomed us by was just endless, initially befuddling I have to add. A peaceful place to visit for a nice relaxing getaway with the entire family.

Blessed with weather that was perfect enough despite being close to wet/rainy season (November – April), was something I cannot complaint about. Surely it was not blazing shaft of sunlight piercing through the cloudless sky, such that the waters in the surrounding seas are crystal clear with no washed up debris. But at least, it was not raining or melancholic that water activities would have to be unfortunately cancelled.

It was a short family vacation of just a few days, and 2 of those days were imperatively well spent with Safari Tours & Travel Co. in Manado. So let’s jump right into Day 1 of it!

 

Day 1 Highlights: Snorkelling at Bunaken Island + TIPS

To me, snorkelling was the highlight activity during this entire Manado trip. I was very much excited for it. This was my first time snorkelling with my family as sidekicks. The most recent snorkelling was in the Philippines- whale shark watching (which I hardly feel it was snorkelling at all, considering the fact that I was trying to brave through my fear, haha!)

Click here if you are interested in my whale shark watching experience!

For those ardent scuba divers, Bunaken Island which is just a quick boat ride away from Manado, would definitely be a top diving spot. I am not a diver, but even just mere surface snorkelling and glass bottom boat viewing was quite enough to entice me. Could only imagine a whole new world if I would be able to dive into the sea at least 1000 metres down under to appreciate the walls of the magnificent coral gardens and the amazing biodiversity!

IMG_7554

The Safari Tours & Travel Co.’s van came to pick us from our resort at around 9.30 am to the jetty, and by 11 am (ish), we were engaged in the first mini activity of the day: glass bottom boat viewing of the corals and marine wildlife!

The boat ride to the viewing vicinity of corals was about a half hour or so. It was definitely a nice start to the morning with the sea breeze just howling and pressing against your skin as the boat advanced towards Bunaken Island!

The glass bottom boat viewing was pretty nice; we get to see some vivid colours of coral colonies, fishes, turtles, and even blue starfishes! It was pretty cool. And for members of the family not into snorkelling, at least they wouldn’t miss out on this aspect.

After glass bottom boat viewing, we disembarked on Bunaken Island for just a short while to get our entrance ticket/tag to the Bunaken National Marine Park. It was IDR $150k per person, and the validity of it is an entire calendar year. You will get a waterproof laminated entrance tag that you will need to bring along with you as proof when there would be any random checks by the park rangers on land or at sea. The laminated tag was also a nice souvenir to bring home! 😀

Then the main highlight of the day: snorkelling! YAY! 😀

We got geared up with life vests provided and into the ocean we went! While everyone was all busy fitting into their life vests, first into the waters was my elder brother- all so very eager to try out his new snorkelling gear in the ocean.

It was an enjoyable and definitely memorable snorkelling experience, for the fact that my father got drifted quite away from the main coral colony; and the boat man had to throw in a safety float to pull him in towards the boat.

It was close to wet season, thus the water current was a little strong. We all had an arduous swim just to remain in the same position and not being carried away by the current. I, myself, was inching away slowly despite swimming hard and looking at the corals. #multitasking

It was how calm my father was at that moment when he realised he physically wasn’t able to fight against nature’s current that he very much so casually called out for help. And because he did it so casually, my brother’s girlfriend, who was up on the front deck, thought that he was joking, and didn’t thought it was a crisis.

As a result, she did not really panic to get help from the boat man. My mother, who wasn’t out at the front deck, even thought that it was my younger brother who wanted the float instead. Basically, I could only imagine the whole scene on the boat to being very calm, while my father was out in the open sea drifting away, and away… …

It was hilarious, just thinking of it now- how dramatic!

It was only until much later when we all went up to take a breather for all the arduous swimming that we realised what had happened. It was hilarious because of how calm my father was; and not alarming the masses when he needed saving! Hah… …!

After all the swimming and fighting against the current, oh boy were we jaded and mad hungry. On Safari Tours & Travel Co., lunch was provided back on Bunaken Island. A nice simple meal of rice, fish and vegetables to share. It was a nice satisfying lunch, excluding the fact that stray dogs and cats were lurking around us for scraps of our food. 😀

TIPS?!

(a) Combat motion sickness?

The boat ride can be a little bumpy; so for those who are seasick prone; do get ready some small puke trash bags, and prior to the boat ride you could pop in a seasick pill if you need.

I am quite prone to motion sickness; and I recall the most recent encounter was en route to Phi Phi Island, back in Krabi, Thailand. I wasn’t prepared then; and neither was the guide on board. Haha! Luckily she managed to find a giant trash bag for me or I might had puked all over myself on board.

So this time, yes, even though I didn’t pop in any seasick pills, I decided to try a method I like to call: Getting on with the flow… … Though it wouldn’t work for all situations; so maybe popping seasick pills and trash bags are your next best friends.

So how this works is; when I feel like sitting on the boat was making me soon-to-be queasy, I stand right at the front deck of the boat. You know like in the movie: Titanic, when Jack opened Rose’s arms, and she thinks she was flying scene? Yeah, but not asking you to re-enact the scene with your lover, ‘cause that could be very dangerous considering the fact that you would by now be feeling dizzy and all. Haha!

Just stand near the front deck with no peripheral obstructions, grabbing on to any handgrips, and just look towards the sea horizon right in front of you. Look far and wide. Get on with the flow of boat; moving up and down, according to the waves as it crashes against the boat. And at the same time, just enjoy the unimpeded view! Going with the flow of the boat, and seeing the motion of the boat helps your body and mind adapt to it, and hence, voilà, no feeling of puking! What’s not to love about this method right? 😀

Of course this method works only if you are on a private tour; where all the passengers on board are basically people you know; and of course if you are not on a fast chase speed boat. I reckon this method would totally be disengaged when I was on the group tour on the way to Phi Phi Island in Krabi, Thailand. The guide would imperatively tell me to sit my arse down like everyone else, as we were on a speed boat and all.

(b) Do not panic, just call out for help

When it comes to you against nature; what I have learnt from this trip and seeing how many father handled it amazingly is to be calm. Panicking will make everyone panic along with you and getting those who can save you (probably) have a mental block; which doesn’t work in your favour. Of course, it is definitely easier said than done. And I wonder if I was the one in my father’s shoes how will I react.

Hhhmmm… … Maybe I will just scream for help; and drown my lungs with salt water; and yup… … the rest is history.

 

Day 1 Highlights: Christ Blessing Statue

We returned back to shore on Manado towards the late afternoon. Seeing that we still had some time before dinner, my father told our tour guide, Freddy, to drive us to the Christ Blessing statue located at the peak of the CitraLand residential estate.

This Christ Blessing statue stands at 98.4 ft which is fairly much comparable to the world most iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Built by a protestant property developer, this statue has now become a new icon of Manado city as of the recent years!

A very calming sight to see on top of a hill; where the local residential houses were sprawled all below your peripheral vision; and with what it seems like Bunaken Island as the backdrop? Though I am not too sure if it is really Bunaken Island or some other.

 

Day 1 Highlights: Dinner at Wisata Bahari Seafood Restaurant

Address

Bahu Mall Complex, Jl. Wolter Monginsidi 1, Kota Manado, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia

Personal Rating

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Total damage (per pax)

~ IDR $227241.66

Oh seafood oh seafood; glorious fresh seafood! Dining at Wisata Bahari Seafood Restaurant was basically having dinner with a view and amazing sea breeze! It was so cooling that evening after a slight rain earlier, that everything was just perfect.

There was a variety of fresh seafood, from crab, to mantis shrimp, to lobsters for your choosing. We ordered 2 crabs cooked in different sauces, 2 grilled mantis shrimps cooked in butter garlic, grilled fish, a mixed vegetable dish and 1 hotplate bean curd. It was the a satisfying seafood dinner after a long day at sea. Really delicious!

With the amount of seafood we had ordered at such a reasonable pricing, and with a view so beautiful, there really isn’t much complaints at all. Just all in a perfect cosmos.

The epically dramatic snorkelling trip with the family, the nice mini city sightseeing to Christ Blessing statue, and amazing seafood dinner at Wisata Bahari Seafood Restaurant; all these just sums up our first day trip with Safari Tours & Travel Co. in Manado!

Oh boy, wait till we experienced what was installed for us the next day! That would be interesting!

Picture does speak a thousand words, but you need to be there to really believe it. Even for the not so avid divers, Manado is a nice place to chill, have relaxing snorkelling (on dry season; when the sea current is not strong) and have yummilicious seafood everday! Manado is imperatively a nice getaway for the whole family!

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world and Travel Whenever!

Dee

How to get there? 

En Route to Milford Sound via Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes & Homer Tunnel 

Milford Sound 

TIPS? 

And New Zealand… … Probably the place where I might have left a little part of me. Surrounded only by beauty, serenity and hope seeping through the snowcapped mountains, valleys and ridges, I have no qualms that any sombre mood would definitely be uplifted, for sure.

Well… … at least I know mine had. Looking back at the photos taken there, it does bring back the memories that had impinged on me when I was in New Zealand, South Island for close to a month.

 

How to get there?

It was a one day trip from Te Anau township where we resided at to Milford Sound. A very laidback drive with many quick respites that included mini sightseeing and camera shots along the way! ‘Cause why rush, when the en route’s views were just as impeccable!

A straightforward driving route on the Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 will basically take you there in approximately 1 hr 50 mins? And that does not include respites. So I would say a 2 hour (ish) drive or longer?

 

En Route to Milford Sound via Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes & Homer Tunnel

So if you are within the Te Anau vicinity, then you had better take a driving trip (preferably self-drive), and embark on an expedition on the Te Anau-Milford Highway 94. You don’t even have to hike, walk, or claw your way through the mud, bushes or forest to have views that are as marvellous as what you would feast your eyes upon on this drive en route to Milford Sound.

And I know it does sound crazily exaggerated here, but I am not kidding. It was THE MOST amazing vista I had ever seen from a viewpoint of a driver/passenger IN THE CAR. The entire stretch up Highway 94 was just BAM amazing! It was ridiculous endless marvelling on my end; I just can’t… …!

1. Eglinton Valley

Now picture Eglinton Valley as this gorgeous piece of open field of lustrous green patch sprawled across hectares, accompanied with the distant mountains stretched out into the far off land as backdrop. That was imperatively a scene not to forget! And with the endless quiet highway, anywhere was a good spot to park by the side of the road and gawked at the wonders of Mother Nature.

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Since we set off in the late morning, the strong afternoon sunlight beamed so generously on everything that the entire landscape just glistened in front of us. It was picture perfect.

Along the way, we paused to immerse in a stream with close to turquoise clear waters flowing with benign. So peaceful and calm, the icy cold waters streamed down without a care in the world. It was just beautiful.

2. Mirror Lakes

Don’t be fooled by the ‘Lakes’ in the naming of this. It is not really a huge patch of lake or any sort. It is more of a pond? Okay, maybe slightly larger than a pond. It is not hard to miss this pit stop as there would be cars parked along the side of the road, and a decent signage too!

A 2 minutes or less mini boardwalk would take you down to the viewing deck where you would be greeted by the still waters and mountains. And if you are lucky maybe a cute ducky or 2?!

You don’t have to spend too much time at Mirror Lakes, ‘cause the real action and mind-blowing views comes soon after.

3. Homer Tunnel

Anyone heading to Milford Sound has to go through Homer Tunnel. Since the tunnel can only fit in a stream of cars in a single file each time (each way), hence there would be a bit of a wait time if cars from the other side of the tunnel would be making their way over.

Which was no biggie at all, considering the majestic view in the vicinity just compensated for it all! Families actually parked their mini vans, and have lunch tables all set up just next to the entrance/exit of Homer Tunnel; facing the glacier. Having lunch without an impeding view of the glacier? HELLO, YES PLEASE, ANYTIME! 😀

Seeing that we had quite a bit of a wait time, we decided not to join in the car queue, but parked alongside the families having lunch! We had some time to immerse in the beauty of the mountains engulfing from the sides with trickling of waters down the ridges like mini waterfalls. Oh they were all so beautiful as the sparkle under the afternoon sunlight, like little streams of confetti!

The white glistening glacier was probably the highlight for everyone waiting at the entrance of Homer Tunnel. It was so up-close and personally, it was unbelievable that it was just there; so within your reach! It was crazy! And of course, we had to snap a hell load of photos! We did notice some people exploring deeper into the glacier area, but because we were tight on time, we decided to have that a miss.

 

Milford Sound

After an arduous but all so satisfactory and self-fulfilling drive from Te Anau township, we had finally arrived at Milford Sound! By then, taking into account all of our respites and photo-snapping, it was already late afternoon, and the sun was soon to set.

We had a quick lunch/tea at the Blue Duck Café. Cannot really recall exactly what I ordered, but probably a standard set of coffee and meat pastry puff? Or did I bring along my own sandwich? Okay, I think probably I did brought my own sandwich and bought a coffee from the café. 😀

Then the exploring begun! We embarked on the Milford Foreshore Walk, which was a pretty easy grade boardwalk with some gravels and slight forested area. So peaceful and serene considering it was already late afternoon, there was practically close to no one around anymore.

Just the sound of the cool crisp howling of the sea breeze and the occasional honks coming from the Milford Sound Cruise Tours. They were all probably already done with their magical cruise day tour around Milford Sound vicinity, and to think, we only just begun! Haha! 😀

 

TIPS?

(a) Bring a packed lunch/snack

Since the journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound can be a little long, it would be always nice to have a snack of some sort for when you decide to rest. And a great spot to fuel up and get those legs stretching and blood circulating would be near the entrance of Homer Tunnel! With the close-up view of the glacier being so perfectly in place and in a cosmos with the surroundings, having lunch there would make any nature lover jelly!

(b) Start journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound EARLY

Now I am not saying bright and early like 6 or 7 am even, but I would say a reasonable time between 9 and 10 am (ish) is a good period to set off. This will imperatively give you plenty of time to snap pictures of Eglinton Valley and the river streams, the Mirror Lakes, and definitely not forgetting, having able to explore the glacier just at the entrance of Homer Tunnel!

(c) Drive-Thru Homer Tunnel with CARE

Inside Homer Tunnel is pitch dark with NO side lights or beacon of any sorts within the tunnel. It is only towards the other side where there would be shafts of sunlight peering through and beacons to direct you along, other than that, your headlights, and of course, the headlights coming from other cars in front and behind you are all you have.

Entering the tunnel for the first time is like taking a ride on Disneyland’s Thunder Mountain. I mean, it was not any fast like a roller coaster in that sense, but we were entering a tunnel, which is drilled through a mountain so I guess it was kinda the same? Haha…!

Since, it was pitch black, manoeuvring slowly through the tunnel with care is fundamental. Just go slow, and follow the car in front!

(d) Staying over at Milford Sound?

To be honest, I don’t think there is a need to stay over at Milford Sound. Yes, the landscape is spectacularly immaculate and out of this world, but if you not coming to Milford Sound from a Fiordland’s multi-day trek or had been on the road for a while, then I reckoned that there is really no need to spend a night at Milford Sound.

There is really nothing else you could do there other than the 20 minutes Milford Foreshore Walk. Not to mention, in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops or restaurants to dine. Heading back to humble Te Anau township with so many amazing food options and necessities available would be a better option. The accommodation at Te Anau is also much reasonable.

Besides, remember the 2 hour (ish) drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound being so wickedly awesome, well… … you get to experience it for the second time in 1 day! WHY NOT?!

However, if you feel you might be too exhausted from the drive, and do feel like spending more time at Milford Sound, then I recommend ONE night. Just one night would be more than enough. 🙂

Click for more details on Milford Sound accommodation.

Milford Sound could be experienced differently giving you angular perspectives of it. Whether you are

(i) going on a Milford Sound cruise tour (day/overnight), or

(ii) embarking on one of Fiordland’s multi-day treks, or

(iii) simply a self-drive from Te Anau township

Milford Sound will still always be an amazing place in the South Island of New Zealand. I will not forget how in awed I was in the car on the way to Milford Sound. The route was just as sweet amazing as the finishing line.

Picture does speak a thousand words, but trust me when I say, you need to be there to really believe it. Believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world.

So get out there, and explore! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

 

Route:

Parking Lot –> Elevated Track –> Summit –> And Back

Total Distance:

16 km (9.9 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 7 – 9 hours or slightly less

(with plenty of time to take great shots & light snacking)

Seasonal Restrictions:

Track closed for lambing between 1st October and 10th November each year.

Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?

The Wanaka region is still by far the most memorable part of my New Zealand trip. Weather in New Zealand can get pretty precarious; with moments of sunshine, and then moments of melancholy!

In hindsight, we were pretty much blessed during our visit to the Wanaka region with perfect skies, not too chilly temperature, and best of all, refreshingly cool breeze that fills every volume corner of our lungs as we inhaled in the best of nature!

 

How to get there?

The start of the Roys Peak Track is just a quick and simple approximately 5 km drive North West from Wanaka Township! Drive on Ardmore Street, which will lead you on Wanaka- Mount Aspiring Road.

Look out for the yellow signage (which is not as prominent) ‘Roys Peak Track’ on the right (if you are coming from Wanaka Township, that is). The car parking area is just there at the base of the peak!

 

Highlights and Views

There is a green donation box near the entrance of the Roys Peak Track. The donation is more for maintenance and upgrade of the walking track. It is not compulsory and you do not have to be compelled to donate if you do not want to.

The first section of the Roys Peak Track crosses private land, hence, it is sage to keep on the paved track, and respect landowner’s property! Since there would be approximately a month’s long of lambing between October and November, obviously we could get to see some, well… … many… … sheep and lambs up close and personal all throughout the track up!

And of course, you have to accept the animals in all their glory right?

By that, I meant the woolly fur balls’ poops and their glorious smell that accompanies with! Yup, poopies all over the track; especially the initial section! Here. There. EVERYWHERE! 😀 Glorious smell!

The view just keeps getting more amazing as you ascend. I couldn’t help but always take a glance back as I climbed up a few steps further!

First it was just the hills, the thin strip of Wanaka Township, and the partial view of Lake Wanaka, then slowly, the lake view just extents wider, and the town strip gets larger! Soon we could see the sprawling Wanaka Township on the right and the cerulean Lake Wanaka on the left- all within our peripheral vision; unimpeded!

The distant mountains and beyond were now visible as well! Partially shrouded by the clouds, some mountains were snow-capped. Hence, I kept my eyes peeled for the moment the mountains were less covered by the clouds to capture a shot or two or three!

I do know that the view is going to be even more awe-inspiring up at the summit of Roys Peak, but I just couldn’t help myself! I had to pause the trudge up (at intervals), snapped pictures and immersed in it all! It was just too beautiful, it was impeccable! Maybe that’s why when people say that they take a certain time to complete a trek; I probably take longer than what was mentioned! 🙂

Along the journey up Roys Peak Track, you will see an up sloping field of alpine tussocks, and from far it looks like fur balls of hair that sways so gently and in sync with the wind. The tussocks just remind me of the movie: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, where the colourful vibrant trees look like cotton candy and balls of hair!

There is a long narrow strip for respite just before you continue on the climb to the summit. You could stop here for a snack/lunch break and if you are really not up for it, you could slowly make your descend. Most people would stop here and have photos taken of them on the narrow strip with the blue hues of sky, lake and mountains as backdrop! Very Instagram-worthy! ;P

This is a nice spot to be ensorcelled by the beauty of the landscape in front of you. And by this time, you would be imperatively certain that the arduous trudge up earlier was definitely all worth it; every drop of sweat!

Comparing the long elevated way up from the base, to the climb from the respite area to the summit, the latter is really not that long a journey. You have reached the Roys Peak summit when you see the tall radio antenna tower!

So knowing this now, if you see it afar whilst climbing, maybe you would want to use this as your beacon of hope to spur you on? Haha!

I cannot explain how much satisfaction I had gain from conquering the Roys Peak Track. The amount of effort I vested in to get a view as gawkingly breath-taking as this was just very deserving in my opinion.

You know there are some treks where you don’t need to put much effort and still get awesome views? And there are some which make you cringe and grit your teeth, but yet you still press on, and are rewarded with the views to die for?

Well, though sometimes we all need treks which requires less effort in exchange for good view; ‘cause you know, we are all not made of steel; and we cannot always and every day be conquering challenging treks right?

But, in my opinion, it is good and healthy to challenge yourself every now and then to a trek that makes you work your ass for something deserving. I feel a greater sense of achievement as compared to a simpler and easier trek! Don’t you think so? 🙂

‘Cause the best memories will be deeply etched when you actually put an effort and work for it rather than just getting it on a silver platter! Though, I have to say, sometimes silver platters would be nice too! Haha! 😀

 

TIPS?

(a) Just keep swimming moving… … Just keep swimming moving… …

For someone who hasn’t done the Roys Peak Track before, you couldn’t really pinpoint where the final destination (a.k.a summit) really is. All you see is just a relentless elevated winding track to the heavens; which means against gravity! And well… … we all know, gravity ain’t exactly the best-est of friend sometimes right?

Definitely not the most benign track to be on, but you really need to rivet on the goal here; and that’s to reach the summit, because you presage that the view up there is going to be so swooning, and it’s just a pity if you were to miss it! Well… … at least that’s what I tell myself whilst on this track!

So don’t just stop at the narrow strip for respite! Have a break and continue to the summit! It’s really not that far! Honest!

(b) Start the trek EARLY

If you are someone who loves pausing to snap photos, or need multiple breaks to catch your breath (because, this is a massive elevated track), then you really need to start early. Take it from someone who had done this trek in the morning, and finished it close to evening.

(c) Sunscreen is a MUST; alongside windproof outer coat

Roys Peak Track gave me my first sunburn on my lower arms in over a decade! Usually I would use sunscreen and at most I would just tan up, but this time there was massive skin peeling. Why? ‘Cause I was lazy, that’s why.  And overly complacent! It was bad enough for me to get an aloe vera after sun lotion to soothe the burn.

This is an exposed track, with no trees to shelter you like most forest track. So do not be lazy like I was, and slap on sunscreen!

Windproof coat is much needed just in case the weather changes. You do not want to be freezing your ass at 1578 m above sea level, do you? Haha!

Trekking is always a good way to avoid huddled groups of people, and a great way to find solace. I always relish the moments spend trekking. The serenity of it all just cannot be bought with money!

Hope this prods you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee