A Travellerspoint blog

The Philippines - Summary

We had way too little time. I would take at least a month. The Philippines can be chaotic, messy, noisy and busy like big cities e.g Manila and Cebu, or sleepy and tranquil like so many small town by the sea.
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We encountered a lot of absolutely gorgeous beaches with crystal clear water and palm trees. On the other hand, there is also a big ignorance on environmental issues. You see boats anchor on coral, people throw their rubbish everywhere (although we saw some efforts on recycling as well), people use shampoo and other chemicals to wash themselves and do laundry in the rivers, Manila and Cebu have a big pollution problem and they still practice dynamite fishing in some areas.

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Despite most of the population being fairly poor, we found the people to be more friendly and honest than for example in Indonesia.
The food is almost always rice with something (that something is often pork) and a sugary drink. We found it a little bit challenging to eat healthy.
The population is mostly christian, so you don’t have to be afraid of offending someone with your clothing or behaviour, as the people are very relaxed about those things.

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The Philippines has a fantastic environment and quite a lot of natural resources, but they are badly hit by the climate change, as the drought caused by El Nino is getting worse every year. While we were there, during those 3 weeks, very few places (mostly big cities) had enough water to be able to have a shower. The more rural places had no water at all, or depended on a common water well/pump somewhere in town.

There were also frequent power shortages, but that’s more of a political problem than anything else.

Our favourite places were:

  • Palawan (especially Port Barton) for Edda, because of a lot of beautiful island and great snorkelling.
  • Camotes Island, as it is not very touristy (yet). It’s mostly local weekend tourists. Also offers great snorkelling, nice beach and really nice caves to explore.
  • Masbate was nice, also non touristy, but we were a bit short on time to form a proper opinion.

We disliked:

  • El Nido. Too many tourists and everything revolves around tourism.
  • Manila and Cebu. Horribly congested huge cities with a lot of pollution, inequality and inflated prices.

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Posted by cjfvdk 04:20 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Masbate island

Getting to Masbate turned out to be a bit more tricky than we thought. Because of the upcoming elections, there is a mass movement and everyone has to migrate back to their home town, so our midnight ferry was fully booked (despite arriving at the terminal 5h before departure). There were about 100-200 other people at the terminal who didn’t get the tickets. The next ferry would only be at midnight the next day and we could only buy tickets tomorrow.

We thought about our options for a while. Luckily there was some sort of wifi at the terminal, so we checked hostels/hotels and airbnb. We found an ok price just near the terminal and the owner replied really fast. Her brother came with the motorcycle to pick us up, and we had a good night sleep :)
The next day we went to the terminal before breakfast. They just started write a passenger manifest (a list of people who are on the boat). We managed to write our names, had breakfast and could buy the tickets already. Then we started the wait… We had the whole day, it was pretty hot. We walked a bit around the small town, had lunch, read books, walked a bit more. Soon it was evening and the ferry was also sold out for this day, so lucky we arrived at the terminal early in the morning.

Funny thing was, we didn’t see a single tourist. There was one guy, but he came from the ferry to Bogo.

The boat ride was supposed to take 5h (from midnight to 5am), but we only arrived at 8am. And the boat was not designed to do night trips. They had some sofas, but as the ferry was fully booked nobody could lay down. Everyone had to sit in an uncomfortable looking position for 8h. Christophe tried to sleep on the floor together with many others, but well … luckily they were playing movies the whole night (The Hobbit 1 & 2), so there was something to do.

The next morning we managed to catch a bus straight from the arrival terminal to Dimasalang, where we had contacted a couch surfer. His brother was there to greet us already in the morning, so everything from there on went really smooth. He took us to Magcaraguit island where we snorkelled and swam. We even got to taste sea urchin! We had some fresh buck (coconut) juice and headed back to Dimasalan. In the evening we had a great dinner at the family house. The best calamari we had in the Philippines!

The next day (9.5) was election day, so the whole family went voting. We observed a bit, how the voting works. It seems to move very slow and the queues were very long. But at least, because of automated voting (to avoid cheating), they would get the results the same day evening or maybe the next morning.

After voting we walked to a beautiful beach called Porta Vega. Christophe snorkelled there too and Edda just enjoyed the crystal clear water. After an hour or so, a kid came there asking for 500 pesos (10 €), because it was apparently a private beach. We left… We moved to a nearby beach, but he soon came there too. We walked back to hear the election results.

As expected (and feared) Duterte won the presidential elections. They think this country will have a very tough time under his command. Let’s hope it will be not that bad. The election process going on also made it very interesting to talk to the family about their favourites, what was going to happen etc. They were very sad with the winning candidate, and fear that a dictatorship is a possibility, or that he will be toppled over before the end of his term (6 years).

We didn’t see our host anymore because he had work to do because of the the elections, and we had to leave early in the morning, to avoid getting stuck without a ferry. We managed to buy a wrong ticket for the bus to Manilla, and the then the bus broke down, and the 13h ride (5 pm to 6 am) ended up being extremely uncomfortable with very little sleep. But we got there, went around a little bit in Manilla and are now in the airport, waiting to fly back to KL.

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Posted by cjfvdk 00:14 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Cebu and Camotes

From the most underdeveloped airport of Puerto Princessa we arrived in the international airpot of Cebu, got a bus, found a place to sleep and eat, and that was it for the day.

The plan for the next day changed a couple of times. At first, we would go to Bohol, but then maybe stay in Cebu Island. Eventually, we took a jeepney to the pier to catch the boat to Bohol, but ended up buying tickets to Camotes instead (it was a last minute decision, not an accident :)). Upon arrival in Camotes, we didn’t really have any idea where to go, what to do, or if there would be a place to stay, but a friendly tricycle driver brought us to Santiago Bay, where we found a room with an old auntie. We were pretty tired again, so had dinner with her and her family which was there for the day, and went to bed. The next day, we found out that she charged quite a bit for a one person bed, shared toilet and not really anything. We felt ripped off and left, looking for another place. The place we found was a bit better, and the price was more reasonable.

Camotes island is a very low key place. There are not many tourists (although there are a couple of resorts spread around the island), but Santiago bay is a very nice beach with some small restaurants and a marine sanctuary with good snorkelling. The first day Edda had a beach day with Fabienne, and Christophe went around the island with a motorbike looking for good places to visit. It was quite exhausting, but he found the good places, which we visited all together the next day. Edda had a couple of swims and especially a very lazy day, just eating and sunbathing, and sipping coconuts.

The day after we went for a dive, hurray! Finally Christophe managed to persuade Edda to give it a shot, and the dive was quite nice, and relaxed (we were the only 2). The underwater scenery was not spectacular, but it was nice to float underwater and give diving a shot to see if we will try it again later. Christophe liked it, and Edda did too, but she was a bit disappointed with the underwater scenery. As it was a try dive, we couldn’t go too deep. Edda is still not convinced that diving is better than snorkelling, but Christophe will take a dive course if there is a good opportunity.

In the afternoon, we went for a ride with the bike. First we went to Lake Danao in the middle of the island, and there we kayaked to an island in the middle of the lake, so we were in an island in the middle of a lake in the middle of an island :). It was a very nice island, with green grass, which seemed a bit artificial, but still nice. We then continued to a cave, with an underground freshwater pool, which was very nice and amazingly refreshing. Then checking out the sunset on the way home, we got back in the dark and Christophe had a massage, then dinner and then some drinks.

So the next day started with a hangover for Christophe … Edda took another beachday and Christophe went for a ride around the other island. There wasn’t much to see, except for another cave, which was very nice again, and pretty cool. A lot of the formations in the cave were old coral, and it was like the hole thing was underwater, but got lifted up with the island, and remained a cave. For the rest the other island didn’t have so much to offer, and Christophe was quite tired when he got back ( and still hangover).

We also found out that it was pretty hard to get to Ormoc, so we decided to go back to Cebu the next day and catch the overnight ferry to Masbate island.

Half sunken boat

Half sunken boat

large_DSCN0381.jpgLeaving Cebu

Leaving Cebu

Santiago Bay

Santiago Bay

large_DSCN0396.jpglarge_DSCN0397.jpglarge_DSCN0404.jpgLocal fisherman's hut

Local fisherman's hut

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Ready for the trial dive

Fried bananas

Fried bananas

large_DSCN0429.jpgKayaking on the lake

Kayaking on the lake

large_DSCN0439.jpglarge_DSCN0440.jpgSwimming in the cave

Swimming in the cave

large_DSCN0479.jpgMotorcycle tour

Motorcycle tour

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Fresh buko juice

Breakfast at Santiago Bay

Breakfast at Santiago Bay

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Lunch

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Nemo

Posted by cjfvdk 01:55 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Port Barton

We decided to leave El Nido as we heard about this sleepy town, which is less busy, but also offers great island hopping, kayaking and spectacular beaches. So far we haven’t been disappointed.

There is a great beach, which is not that full of boats (you have room to swim, yey!). Prices are OK and the atmosphere indeed seems a bit sleepy.
We ended up staying in a tent near the beach. The tent was not as tall as us in any of its dimensions, not waterproof (we got rain on the first day) and it had a very hard mattress (maybe 1cm thick), but it was perfect for us :)
Our 1,5m x 1,5m tent accommodation for 3 nights

Our 1,5m x 1,5m tent accommodation for 3 nights

This is how pineapples grow!

This is how pineapples grow!

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Christophe bargained an island hopping tour - 2 days, 1 night. And, we even rented a SUP, which we took with us to the boat. We had 6 other people in the boat with us, and 3 of them stayed for the overnight beach camping. None of the snorkelling stops had more than 1 or 2 boats (max) at the same time there. The reef and marine life was pretty similar to El Nido, but the overall feeling was much better.

We stayed overnight in Paradise island with a swedish couple and a french girl, really nice people :) In the evening we drank some rum & coke, ate freshly caught crabs and watched the fluorescent plankton & the stars.

The next day we were meant to do more snorkelling, but the captain said he had a headache, so we all had to go back to Port Barton. When we arrived back, we had to of course renegotiate the price… and felt slightly cheated, but well … We had a great time :)

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Supping SUPping

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Island accommodation

large_DSCN0322.jpgSunset from Paradise Island

Sunset from Paradise Island

Dinner with island hoppers

Dinner with island hoppers

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In the evening we decided to walk to the waterfall. It was nice to swim in some fresh water for change. The waterfall din’t look too bad either (pretty high, though not much water). However, just as we were reaching the waterfall, it started seriously pouring down. It was the heaviest rain we’ve seen for a while and it laster for a few hours, so we had to walk back to town on the road that had turned into a stream of mud. We did our best protecting the camera from getting soaked.

Swimming in the waterfall

Swimming in the waterfall

Ah yes, although Port Barton is a nice place with much less tourists, they have electricity only form 18h-24h and pretty much only a few hours per day when there is running water from the tap (because of the draught and the water regulation). Showering, going to the toilet and charging stuff is a little bit more tricky than in El Nido :)

From Port Barton we took the bus (see pics) to Puerto Princessa. It really looked like the bus wouldn’t survive the trip, but miraculously nothing broke on the way. There were not that many passengers, but the bus was loaded with all kinds of heavy bags (including a pig).
From Puerto we’ll take a flight to Cebu.

the bus with crooked wheels

the bus with crooked wheels

Loading heavy bags of who knows what

Loading heavy bags of who knows what

Someone wanted to take a pig with them

Someone wanted to take a pig with them

The pig is securely loaded into the bus

The pig is securely loaded into the bus

Posted by cjfvdk 16:44 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

The Philippines - El Nido

and how we contributed in destroying the reef

We had read so many blog posts about El Nido, how it’s a paradise on earth and how you have all these activities like kayaking, island hopping, snorkelling etc available there. Once we arrived, we were a bit shocked by the amount of tourists here. All the locals seem to own either an accommodation facility, tour booking office restaurant, shop or a combination of those above.

As we didn’t do Island hopping in Coron, we had already decided to do it here. Unfortunately the tour prices are a bit higher here (food and everything is a bit more expensive here). We tried to ask around for the best price (as all the tours are the same anyway) and ended up doing it with the place we are staying in.

We booked tour A. which is one of the most popular ones. This might have been a mistake though. There were about 20-30 boats, each loaded with almost 20 people, who were doing tour A. All the boats went of course to the same places and pretty much at the same time. So each time we arrived at a lagoon/beach, there were already 20 boats there. Each stop of course had also its cold drinks sales people and kayak renting people
The snorkelling was ok. The water is very clear (in most places) and there is some coral (most of it is dead however) and you see different small fishes. If you are lucky, you’ll spot a turtle (we managed to see 2!).

Even though the scenery is beautiful and the snorkelling is ok, the whole tour in general gives you such a bad feeling. First of all, you are cramped in one boat with 20 others, you have already paid for your tour and have snorkelling gear, but they trie to sell you all the possible extras (cold drinks, coconuts, renting kayaks, SUPs…). Every lagoon/beach stop has hundreds of people there at the same time. This definitely makes you enjoy places less, as you have to stand in queue to access the secret lagoon.

The worst thing is how they treat the reef. All the boats have 2 anchors (most of the time they use them both). They carelessly throw it into the coral and rip it off when leaving. You can imagine, if these spots get about 30 boats per day (=60 anchors per day), there will not be much of the reef left after a few years. In addition to that, the tourists of course step on the reef pretty often. But at least we didn’t see them throwing rubbish into the sea, which is good :)

So, we didn’t enjoy the island hopping that much. However, the next day we found some less touristy activities on the backstreets. We went to see a basketball match and a battle of the bands talent show. It was nice, not so many tourists there. Most of them stay within 50m from the beach :D

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Man selling cold drinks to tourists

Boats everywhere

Boats everywhere

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A rip-off kayak rental on our first stop

Island hopping lunch - not bad

Island hopping lunch - not bad

large_RSCN0279.jpglarge_DSCN0277.jpgView from our bungalow

View from our bungalow

Posted by cjfvdk 16:24 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

The Philippines - From Manila to El Nido

We arrived at 5 am, without a clear plan on how to get anywhere. But we packed smart this time. Only hand luggage, no running around with heavy backpacks, and that almost immediately proved to be a blessing. We knew we wanted to visit El Nido, but were not sure which other places to stop on the way.

After stocking up on cash in HSBC (to get at least 200 euros worth of pesos, and to avoid paying the ATM fee), we ended up taking a bus to Batangas, from where we took a fast boat to Calapan, and a minivan to San Jose. As we didn’t know where we would end up that night, we didn’t book anything. We didn’t really see any hotels in San Jose, so went and asked in the police station where we could stay. They were very friendly (they had rules about being friendly on the wall), and helped us. We found a hotel for a good price, with a single bed and no working toilet or shower, but it was ok. It took some more time to figure out when the boat to Coron was leaving, but after we figured that out, we walked around San Jose for a bit, got something to eat and found a place to sleep. It was Friday, so lots of people were on the streets, some bars/clubs were open and there was a small alley where they had all sorts of gambling games. For a small town it was a very busy weekend. They were preparing for the first of May festival.

There was no ferry anymore in the night, so we took the morning boat to Coron after sleeping for 4 hours. It was one of these spider boats, bangka, they call it. It was a very steady ride for 8h The ferries and boats are not very cheap it seems, so sometimes you are better off taking a flight. Now of course, it’s the holiday season here, so flights are even more expensive :/
large_DSCN0145.jpgSleeping in the luggage pile

Sleeping in the luggage pile

Goats on the boat

Goats on the boat

There is a lot of beautiful scenery on the way

There is a lot of beautiful scenery on the way

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In Coron we went to hunt for an OK place to stay, finally we found a good one. In the evening we still had time to roam around town, markets and the harbour. The next day we decided to rent a motorbike and go around the island, instead of doing some island hopping. This was probably a mistake, but well… Can’t always win.

We expected to see a lot of beautiful places with the motorbike, but we only saw one nice beach, some nice mountain scenery and a lot of small villages. It was nice, but the motorcycle ride was pretty rough, because a third of the whole 160km we drove, was gravel (with lots of bumps). Yes, we had sore bums afterwards.

Motorcycling around the island

Motorcycling around the island

Ocan Ocan beach

Ocan Ocan beach

Posing in ocan-ocan beach

Posing in ocan-ocan beach

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From Coron, we took yet another boat to El Nido. This boat was a Cargo/passenger boat, which took also 8h. Everyone has a metal bunc-bed, they had no seats or much space to move in the boat. So, most of the journey we were either reading, sleeping or watching the beautiful scenery. It’s crazy how many « paradise » beaches they have here.

Bunc beds everywhere

Bunc beds everywhere

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View from our bunc beds

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Now we are in El Nido. It’s much more infested with tourists than Coron (which we thought was pretty bad already) and prices are a bit higher. We anyway decided to do an island hopping/snorkelling tour tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it will be amazing :)

We wanted this to be an adventure without booking any rooms, and so far Christophe thinks it’s working out fine. We find our boats, people speak English, it’s easy compared to Indonesia, people are friendly and mostly honest, we got a bit better at haggling. It’s only a bit more expensive than we expected, especially the transport. And it seems that we are already to late here for the good places, they are fully catered for tourists. Later this week, we’ll try to find a non-touristy place ):

Posted by cjfvdk 16:07 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Penang

Food, murals, beaches and Chrispy

After having spend an extra week in Kuala Lumpur at the OHM homestay, helping out with cleaning and cooking, relaxing, planning the next trip (to the Philippines :)), we went on to the Island of Penang.

Penang (or Georgetown, the biggest town there) is mostly famous for its food and relaxed atmosphere. We took a bus and a ferry to get to the island (which is actually cheaper than taking the bus that goes by the bridge). Luckily the hostel we booked offered value for money (not like the hostels in KL).

We had a taste of Penang by trying the famous dishes, like Fried Koay Teow, Porsembor, Nasi Kandar, Oh Chien, fried Sui Kow and of course the famous Penang laksa.

On the first days we had Chrispy (a friend from Belgium) joining us from KL. We walked around Georgetown admiring the street art and just sightseeing. The next day we rented motorbikes and drove around and across the island. We saw some pretty nice beaches, lots of temples and had good views from the hills. One of the best spots to stops was near a waterfall. They had a stream where you could have a swim and the water was COOL!

In the evening Chrispy took the ferry back to the mainland, but we continued to explore Penang by motorbike. We went to the Kek Lok Si temple, which is pretty impressive (see pics) and to some of the beaches. The water is way too hot for swimming or cooling you down. In the evening we went to see a free movie in a nice outside theatre.
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Posted by cjfvdk 21:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur

Friends, sightseeing, museums and of course the Batu Caves

Another city with lots of skyscrapers and pollution. KL is a diverse city with Malaysians, Indians, Chinese, other Asians and of course western people. It is far more busy & congested, and a bit less green than Singapore. The food is cheaper though!

On our first day we just had a bit of a sightseeing tour with the GOKL free buses. You can pretty much reach everywhere in the center with these free buses, although sometimes it’s not clear where they stop and how often they go. We also managed to meet 2 sets of friends during our stay here. First one was Kehua, a friend from Stockholm. We had a dinner with him and his friends :)

The second was Edda’s relatives from Neeme, Estonia. We also had dinner with Liis and Aleks and the next day we visited their hotel/apartment to have some drinks. It was nice to see some familiar faces :)
We met some friends!

We met some friends!

The next day we went to the Batu caves (cave temples a bit out of town). We had already seen the Perak temple near Ipoh, so we weren’t that impressed. The huge statue in front of the temple was however quite impressive. Batu caves lacked the decorative wall paintings that we saw in Ipoh. Going to the caves was still a nice way to spend the afternoon.
large_DSCN0028.jpgTemple monkey

Temple monkey

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The next day we visited the Muzium Negara, which exhibits the Malaysian history. First we had a very good free guided tour for 1.5h and then we walked around for 2h ourselves (reading pretty much all there was to read). After the museum we came across an Indian event (I think it was an event by an NGO). There was free food, free drinks and free dance performances. We tried some typical Indian food, sipped our free coconuts and watched a dance performance. Now it’s time to think which other places we want to visit in Malaysia, or should we head to Thailand soon.

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Posted by cjfvdk 06:06 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Street art and cave temples in Ipoh

We were not planning to do much in Ipoh, as it was just one of the stops towards Kuala Lumpur. However we ended up doing a street art tour, eating some delicious food, visiting the Chinese tin miners museum and even seeing the cave temple a bit out of town.

Ipoh is not a very touristy town, which was nice for us :)

The Perak cave temple was quite impressive. It had lots of paintings on the walls and a good view from the top of the hill. We thought it was better than Batu caves near Kuala Lumpur, which is always full of tourists.

Street art in Ipoh 1

Street art in Ipoh 1

Street art in Ipoh 2

Street art in Ipoh 2

SAM_0220.jpgChinese tin miners museum

Chinese tin miners museum

Perak cave temple view

Perak cave temple view

Perak cave temple

Perak cave temple

SAM_0203.jpgSAM_0200.jpgPerak cave temple near Ipoh

Perak cave temple near Ipoh

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Posted by cjfvdk 06:03 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

(Hitch)hiking in the Cameron Highlands

We had about 2h in one comfortable bus to KL and then another 5h in another to reach Cameron Highlands. The bus dropped us at Tanah Rata, which was about 4km from Brinchang, where our hotel was. Taxi seemed a bit non-traveller like, so we hitchhiked and managed to stop a ute with many people already in the back. We rode those 4kms in the back of the ute with lots of people who didn’t speak english :D
Getting a ride in a back of a ute

Getting a ride in a back of a ute

It was Sunday afternoon and all the weekend tourists were pretty much gone. This place gets packed in the weekend by local Malaysian tourists. Many restaurants and shops were closed, so we took a while to find a decent place to have dinner. We walked to see the strawberry plantations and the temple on top of one of the hills and had a view of the town.
local delicacy

local delicacy

Bringhang

Bringhang

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The next day we woke up early and started jungle trekking. We climbed up Gunung Brinchang. That was allright, pretty steep and muddy in some sections. We were lucky that it didn’t rain in the past days, otherwise the track would be really hard. There is also a bitumen road to the top, so most people get to the top by car. We continued the hike to Mossy Forest and from there it said only 2km to Gunung Irau…. I’m not sure how they measure distances here, but that was no 2km.
At the top of Gunung Brinchang

At the top of Gunung Brinchang

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The track was very windy and it went up and down all the time. We even passed the Malaysian army on our way to the top. They had guns and everything with them for the wild animals (luckily we didn’t meet any). The whole track took us 2h to reach the top and almost another 2h to get back to start. We were pretty dead afterwards, but still needed to walk about 10km to get back to Brinchang. The rest of the walk was ok though, it was on the road and we passed some nice scenery.

Our legs were in pain the next day.
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tea plantations

more tea

more tea

and more tea

and more tea

Our next destination was Ipoh, and we had read that there are 4 buses per day to get there. We had a good experience with hitchhiking once here, so we decided to give it another shot. From cameron Highlands to Ipoh is about 95km, so it should be a manageable distance :)

We tried for about 20min, only one guy stopped to tell us that he is not going to Ipoh and he thinks that not many people are going there, so we better take a bus. We went to investigate which bus would go next, and discovered that there was only one bus and it left early in the morning… So, our only option was hitchhiking. We gathered our motivation and tried again. Soon a pretty broken down van stopped and took us about 18km out of town. Our chances there didn’t look too good as most of the cars passing were working utes or trucks. However, suddenly a Chinese guy with a nice car stopped and took us all the way to Ipoh!

He spoke pretty good english, so we talked a bit on the way. We even had lunch with him near Ipoh. Success!
SAM_0169

SAM_0169

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Posted by cjfvdk 19:53 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Relaxing in Malacca (or Melaka)

A few days ago we arrived in Malaysia. The border crossing was simple and very efficient. We just hopped on a bus near our hostel. The bust ticket, which costed a few dollars, took us straight to the bus station of Johor Bahru, from where we could go pretty much everywhere in Malaysia.

Our first destination was Malacca. The bus trip was extremely comfortable; it took 3h, but the bus had A/C, curtains and super large luxury seats. There was not much to see on the road, just miles and miles of palm oil plantations.

Once in Malacca (which is one of the closest city to Indonesia. Something like 2h by boat, we felt very relaxed. It is crazy how different this place is from any place we went in Indonesia. There is cheap and good food everywhere, but the hygiene is much better and the price seems to be the same for a tourist than for a local :) The streets are less congested and a bit more clean. There is aso a very relaxed atmosphere around the whole town. If someone starts talking to you, (s)he’ll most likely genuinely try to help you, not to sell you something.

The temperature and the humidity are extremely high and maybe because of that, the town seems to only wake up really late. Most of the food places and shops open in the evening when it’s cooler.

You don’t need that many days in Malacca, as the sights are very concentrated. The big things to see here are UNESCO world heritage buildings, which are located very conveniently at the city center. We had a walk around town and pretty much saw everything in one day, even had some extra time for shopping. But maybe because of the temperature, it’s not a bad idea to split the sightseeing into 2 days. We tried to do everything in one day, and Edda felt a bit bad in the evening.

In the end we decided to stay one more day in Malacca as we had problems deciding where to go next. We are actually hoping to do a couple of weeks of volunteering somewhere. We’ll see :)

Nice stroll by the riverside

Nice stroll by the riverside

Sunset

Sunset

Waterwheel from the colonial times

Waterwheel from the colonial times

Sunset by the riverside

Sunset by the riverside

Mango float :D

Mango float :D

Malacca lights

Malacca lights

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

Malacca river at night

Malacca river at night

Posted by cjfvdk 23:57 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

From Singapore with LOVE

We had a short and intensive visit here, but Edda totally fell in love with Singapore. Its culture, urban design, creative vibe, food, public transport, cleanliness, shopping possibilities, parks and attractions totally blew her away.

We were expecting Singapore to be a bit like Hong Kong; busy and metropolitan, but we thought it was even better. The streets were practically empty (disclaimer; saying this after coming from Indonesia), there was plenty of space, nice walking paths, beautiful buildings, great food everywhere (especially at the Hawker centers), the people are friendly (not too pushy like in Indonesia).

Being 3 days in Singapore really felt like a HOLIDAY! We forgot about all the stress of travelling and just enjoyed it :)

On our first day we went around Little India, where our hostel was located. We ate some curries, drank some coconut and had banana prata for dessert. Delicious! The next day Edda guided us around the city center & Orchid road. In the evening we went to the Marina Bay to see the light show and admire all the tall buildings by night. The following day we did a free walking tour in Chinatown, another very cool part of Singapore. We saw a lot of shops, nice buildings and temples.

We could have spent a few more days here, but hopefully we’ll have a chance to come back here :)

Mosque

Mosque

large_SAM_0010.jpgMixture of old and new

Mixture of old and new

Free games at the metro station

Free games at the metro station

Random stuff <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Random stuff :)

Skyline

Skyline

Orchid road

Orchid road

The arab distric

The arab distric

Marina Bay lights

Marina Bay lights

Light show at night

Light show at night

A unicorn elaphant!

A unicorn elaphant!

People praying

People praying

Inside the temple

Inside the temple

Chinatown

Chinatown

An impressive temple in Chinatown

An impressive temple in Chinatown

Posted by cjfvdk 08:02 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Indonesia

summary and final thoughts

We spent about 4 weeks here and visited about 5 islands (3 big ones), so our impression of the country is only based on those.

Indonesia is definitely different, all the islands also differ quite a bit. It was a bit of a culture shock after Australia coming to such a densely populated, busy, polluted, dirty and unorganized country. However after a week or so, we were a bit more used to the flow of life here.

Things we didn’t like:

  • All the haggling and feeling of getting ripped off everywhere (including the inflated prices to national parks and other attractions). Feeling that you can’t trust anyone and have to double check 3 times, if the price really is what they are saying.
  • You can’t walk around in the streets in many places without getting continuously harassed by people trying to sell you taxi, transport, this or that..
  • The climate is what it is, but it’s not very pleasant if you want to be active, walk, hike etc.
  • All the pollution and trash (especially all the plastic on the waterways and in the ocean)
  • The traffic jams 24/7. Also the fact that none of the cities aren’t really built for walking
  • You can’t do much independently or for free - everything works by tours and guides

Things we liked:

  • The food was cheap and mostly tasting good (although it lacked protein)
  • The volcanoes were a great experience and we are happy we saw them
  • There is a lot of small entrepreneurs and women are treated quite equally to men
  • Some people are really nice and genuinely want to help you
  • The language is quite easy, so you can manage well with English and basic Indonesian

The best town we visited was probably Yogyakarta, which is a popular tourist destination, but there are also a lot of students, which always gives a place a special vibe. Bali was OK, but we expected an amazing tropical paradise with great beaches and relaxed atmosphere - didn’t quite get that. In Flores everything was a bit more expensive, but it was also a bit more clean (pollution-wise) and spacious place. Java had the most english speaking people and it was the easiest island to travel (public transport wise). Java was busy, but we also found the most helpful people here.

Christophe said: it’s best to do Indonesia with a motorbike. It gives you freedom to go anywhere independently and see a lot of things that are off the beaten track. We had too much stuff with us to be able to explore the country with a motorbike (excluding renting for a few days). Maybe next time :)

Indonesia tour

Indonesia tour

Posted by cjfvdk 02:31 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Batik, Prambanan and Borobudur

Adventures in Yogyakarta

After arriving to Yogyakarta we were going to visit the sultan’s palace (kraton), but ended up meeting a nice student on the street how recommended to go the the batik gallery of the arts institute. They showed us there how they make batik and explained the process. They were also selling the batiks made by students and their teachers. Edda was very interested and ended up spending quite a few hours there. Christophe got a bit bored and went to the Kraton, which was unfortunately a disappointment.

The next de visited the world famous and UNESCO heritage listed temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. Prambanan was our first stop. We rented a motorbike from Yogyakarta and drove there. Although the entrance to the temples costs way too much for international tourists (10x more than for locals), we decided to pay it and see both of the magnificent temple areas.

Prembanan was quite impressive although there were a lot of ruins and the restoration work seems to go extremely slow. You can imagine how amazing the place looked when all the ruins were temples too. There were quite some tourists (mostly Indonesian) around the temples, but we still managed to take many photos without a lot of people in. Once we had visited the main temple, it started pouring down rain like never before. There was super loud thunder and it just kept raining for about 1,5h straight. Luckily we managed to get ourselves under a rest platform (gazebo) during the rain, so we could wait for it to get over. Half an hour before closing the rain almost stopped and we visited one of the smaller temples at Prambanan. We had it all to ourselves, as nobody stayed there for the rain. The pictures are a bit dark though as the sky was very dark.
We took the motorbike back to the hostel, and of course it started raining again. We got soaking wet. Hurray rain season :P

The next day we visited Borobudur. We also took the motorbike there and were hoping for less traffic as it was Good Friday and a holiday for many people here. The traffic was the same, but at least we didn’t get harassed by school groups taking photos with westerners at the temple (as it was a school holiday). Many people who had gone there the previous days said, they didn’t get to enjoy the temple as so many people were disturbing them all the time and wanting a photo. We only got asked a few times and we politely said « no photo ».

Borobudur was even more amazing. We got a bit more in-depth experience there as we had time to see the video about the temple and go into the archaeological museum to learn about the discovery and reconstructing of the temple. It was a stinking hot day (as all the days here), but we managed to have a good look around the temple and drive 1,5h back to the hostel.

All in all, it was good to see the temples, but the entrance fee is total discrimination and it’s still a bit too high.

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Prambanan after rain

Prambanan after rain

Prambanan

Prambanan

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Carvings on the wall

large_SAM_9952.jpglarge_SAM_9955.jpglarge_SAM_9959.jpglarge_SAM_9965.jpglarge_SAM_9973.jpgBorobudur - higher level

Borobudur - higher level

large_SAM_9984.jpglarge_SAM_9990.jpglarge_SAM_0002.jpgRuins

Ruins

Posted by cjfvdk 04:21 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Ijen and Bromo without a tour (and cheaper)

Part II - Bromo

Back at Bondowose we took a bus to Probolinggo again (20k/pers), as we arrived pretty late (after 5pm), we had to take a private car with other people to Cemoro Lawang, which costed 50k/pers. The cheaper option is a public minibus, which is 35k/pers, but doesn’t leave very late anymore, and doesn’t leave if it’s not full (14-15ppl), so you can wait sometimes a long time before departure. The Bondowoso homestay guys recommended and booked us a very basic room in Cemoro Lawang, Homestay Ana (125k/2pers), it was probably the cheapest we could have got and for sleeping just 3h before hiking again, it was perfect.

At 2:30am we were hiking again. We walked up to the sunrise viewing place (once again we were the first ones there, but during sunrise it was packed). The sunrise was magical, though there were a lot of clouds. We hiked more up to where the jeeps drop their paying tourists to view the sunrise. From there we had good views of Bromo. We stayed there for some hours, just waiting for the clouds to disappear. Then we negotiated an ojek down to the sea of sand (10k/pers) and walked from there a couple of kilometers to Bromo crater. This way we avoided the fee of 217,5k.

The landscape around the crater was really nice. Just black volcanic sand, not much growing around the crater. Bromo was actually closed for a while because of volcanic activity. They had just reopened it about 10days ago, but it’s still active. Once at the rim, we looked into the crater. There was a lot of smoke coming and also a lot of noise from whatever was happening down there. It was also a pretty scary experience, as it is quite unpredictable when the volcano throws out some ash again.

We walked across the sea of sand, and climbed up from the horse path. The whole thing was for free as by doing it like this, we didn’t have to pay the entrance fee. We only paid for the ojek (10k/pers) and the entrance to Cemoro Lawing (10k/pers). Finally something for free! It was a great experience. The entry prices are so high because they want to scare tourists away from coming … We were back around 9:30am, just in time to take the minibus pack to Probolinggo.

Now we’re off to Surabaya to rest and sleep after 2 nights of sleeping only 3h. Then we go to Yogyakarta for a few days and then via Jakarta, we are off to Singapore.
We saw Magaly’s post on Facebook, and read about what happened in Brussels :(. We love you all!

Bromo sunrise 1

Bromo sunrise 1

Bromo sunrise 2

Bromo sunrise 2

Bromo sunrise 3

Bromo sunrise 3

Bromo sunrise 4

Bromo sunrise 4

Bromo just after sunrise

Bromo just after sunrise

Bromo valley

Bromo valley

Christophe and smoking Bromo in the background

Christophe and smoking Bromo in the background

Bromo after clouds disappeared

Bromo after clouds disappeared

Views after sunrise - Bromo

Views after sunrise - Bromo

Cosy public transport

Cosy public transport

Sea of sand valley

Sea of sand valley

Sea of sand at Bromo

Sea of sand at Bromo

Climbing Bromo

Climbing Bromo

Volcanic sand

Volcanic sand

View from the trim

View from the trim

Cristophe looking into the crater

Cristophe looking into the crater

View from the Bromo rim

View from the Bromo rim

Bromo crater stairs

Bromo crater stairs

Posted by cjfvdk 07:33 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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