Author: Where Is My Next Adventure

My name is May Britt. I live and work in Singapore. Original from Norway and a true Viking. I have a passion for Traveling and Photo. I love adventures and try to make the most of life. As a true Viking i love exploring the mountains and hiking is one of my passions. As Helen Keller stated "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"

Hiking Mt. Hallasan

Arriving at the entrance of the Seongpanak trail the temperature was quite nice to be early November and entering the trail, autumn colours where showing off everywhere. It was early morning so still quiet with a few other hikers in front of us and some Crows flying above our heads. It was almost a magical atmosphere with the trees still covered in mist from the morning rain.

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In Norway we have a saying, there is no bad weather just bad clothing. So we were well prepared for a day of rain as weather forecast for the day was heavy rain. But the weather gods were on our side so the heavy rain ended up being a nice and sunny day.

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The trail started with light uphill, winding its way through the forest. The first 4 km until we passed the Sokbat shelter, was quite pleasant and easy hiking.

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From Sokbat shelter to Jindallaebat shelter the trail started to be more challenging due to the heavy rain the day before. So the next kilometres climbing uphill on wet rocks our focus was to keep a nice pace and put our feet in the right place to not slip on the wet rocks.

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We had to pass the Jindallaebat shelter before noon to be able to continue to the summit. If you arrive after this time you will not be able to continue as they want to make sure people have time to get back down before the sun goes down. This timing changes depending on the seasons so good to check up front.

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After a short rest at Jindallaebat shelter we continued uphill were we changed from walking in terrain of thick forest to enter out to more open landscape as we were getting above the tree limit. At this point we could see the summit at a distance. It looked so close but with a steep uphill it was the hardest part of the trek. The trail changed from slippery rocks to man made wooden stairs with a quite crowded trail at this point. Some going up and some coming down.

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About 4.5 hours later, with backpacks much lighter due to a few stops along the way to fuel our body to get some energy, we were standing at the top of Mt Hallasan, South Korea’s tallest mountain with an altitude of 1950m above sea level.

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The summit is known to spend most of the days surrounded by clouds and today was one of those days with only a few openings here and there.

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The size and depth of the Baengnokdam crater lake varies according to the season and at this time it was almost dry. Baengnokdam means white deer lake. Its from the legend attributing the name of the lake to otherworldly men who descend from heaven to play with the white deer. 

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It was crowded at the summit and people were queuing up to take photos next to the stone with inscriptions in Korean. The wind was strong at the top so after taking in the view we found a place sheltered from the wind to enjoy our lunch and hot chocolate. We needed a good rest before our return down again.

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Hallasan mountain have different trail and two of them are going to the summit. The Seongpanak trail that we went and the Gwaneumsa Trail that we were planning to return down from. Due to blockage of the Gwaneumsa Trail we had to return down the same trail as we came from. The Gwaneumsa trail supposed to be more strenuous with fantastic sceneries.

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On our way down we stopped again at the Jindallaebat shelter for a rest as we were struggling on our way down to put our feet at the right place on the slippery rocks. So with one of us having problem with the knees we decided it was better to take it slow.

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Back inside the forest the mist was quite thick so with water drops falling from the trees it almost felt like it was raining.

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Happy to have made it back to the car park our plan was to find a bus to take us back to the resort, but when a free taxi turned in to the car park we change our decision and returned by taxi. Tired and hungry we were looking forward to getting back to the hotel.

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Well back at the hotel, showered and sitting in the restaurant with a good meal and some wine, looking back at the day and the hike, we were thinking, it was tough, but we loved it.

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Getting to the entrance of the trail you can take the bus, drive or take a taxi.

There are five hiking trails on Hallasan. They are:

  • Gwaneumsa Trail – 8.7 km
  • Eorimok Trail – 4.7 km
  • Seongpanak Trail – 9.6 km
  • Yeongsil Trail – 3.7 km
  • Donnaeko Trail – 9.1 km

Only the Gwaneumsa and Seongpanak trails lead to the summit.

We hiked Mt. Hallasan November 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

The White Beach

After an overnight flight from Singapore to Caticlan, we finally put our feet in the soft white sand that made this tropical Island paradise famous and on the top list of Island to visit.

Welcome to Boracay. A tiny Island among the 7000 that makes up the Philippines.

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We checked in to Villa Caemilla, a beach front boutique hotel at station 3 and headed over to the Sunny side Café at station 2 to try out the breakfast. Egg Benedicts with Bacon, not the best choice from the menu, but at least it filled up an empty stomach.

White Beach is divided into three sections named after the former boat stations: Station 1 at the north end of the beach, Station 2 in the middle & Station 3 at the south end of the beach.

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While we were Strolling the beach a “mermaid” appears in front of us, trying to find her way in too the sea.

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This flashy Island is one of the best known holiday destinations in Asia. Having some of South East Asia’s best stretches of soft and powdery white sand.

White Beach is the main hub of the island, stretching along the west coast.

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We walked along the sandy beach path running parallel to the shore.  Being at Station 3 that is quiet and relaxed you will feel the difference as soon as you enter over to Station 2. It becomes busy and you stumble into people everywhere. Straight away you understand why it is known as the party place on the Island and it is where you find the majority of the restaurants, bars and clubs.

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The area of station 2 get busy in the evening with restaurants preparing for the evenings buffet.

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If you are concerned about Island fever there is no need to worry. Everywhere you turn there are someone trying to sell you boat trips. Everything from 3 hours sailing around the island to paragliding and snorkeling. And if you feel like exploring the life below the sea surface, diving is a big industry on the Island.

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After a romantic tree-top dinner at the Shangri-la resort we had to find our way back to our hotel. It was a hot evening and being to tired to wait for the free shuttle but to take us back to D’mall, we ended up taking a tricycle. Shangri-la resort is located on a cliff top and heading down the hill our driver was on the breaks for most of the time to then again speed up as soon as we got close to another uphill part of the road. It’s amazing how they are able to maneuver these bikes around the curves and up and down the hills.

In the Philippines, there’s no limit to the number of passengers riding a tricycle. 2 adult can sit in the front, some more in the back and I think even another one can sit behind the driver. It’s a great way to get around the island.

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Sunset from the beach is one of the things you don’t want to miss out on and a great way to capture it is with a walk on the beach, a sunset cruise on the sea or with a happy hour at the bar with some live music, sipping tropical fruit cocktails, watching the sun go down.

On the Island’s northwestern tip you find the Shangri-la Boracay Resort and Spa where you can watch the sunset from a day bed or from a comfortable chair on the beach with a mango cocktail in hand as we did. During the Happy Hour we tasted the different fruit cocktails on the menu, with the mango one being our favorite. And when the sun had set we found our way over to the bar.

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D’mall is the shopping area on the Island with stores selling all type of equipment for Diving to flip flops and other things you might have forgotten to bring for you holiday on the beach.

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You will find street sellers all along the beach area trying to sell you all kind of products and if you get thirsty, coconut sellers are everywhere.

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We had some blissful days lazing on powder-fine white sand, punctured only by cooling dips in the neon blue water. Just the right recipe for holiday heaven.

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How to get there:

Flight from Singapore with Cebu Pacific, via Manila or Cebu.

Our hotel in Boracay:

Villa Caemilla, a boutique hotel on the beach. It does not have swimming pool, but who needs that when you have the big blue ocean right in front of the hotel with water temperature around 29 deg C.

Great Places to eat:

Villa Caemilla

Christina’s Cafe

Rima Restaurant at Shangri la Resort

Cielo Beach bar for Happy hour at Shangri la Resort

 

New Year – New Adventures

It’s a new year and for most of us this is when we make plans. Some make plans to changes things to the better, start a journey to be more fit, eat more healthy, plan the big adventure of the year, Travel to a new country, spend more time with the family, Do great things at work and the list continues.

I was having a moment reflecting over life and thinking back to when I was young and how big the world seemed to be.

Africa, Asia, Amerika. Far away countries that looked so amazing and exotic. I had a dream to visit Rio de Janeiro and see the Carnival, Be among the wild animals in Africa, Hike the famous mountains of Himalayas, visit the land known as “Down Under” and not to forget a visit to New Zealand to see if it was as similar to Norway as I heard it would be.

I grew up on an Island connected with a bridge to a small town in Norway. I spent most of my holiday at my GrandParents place. Once in a while we would take a trip to Sweden or Denmark or even Germany and for me these were big adventures.

On my first trip to London I found myself learning so much about the world I before only had seen on TV. People off all kind. I suddenly saw them passing by me. People with mohawk coiffure in different colours, people with strange clothes, people singing in the street, everything so amazing and new to me.

At the age of 18, I was on my way for a 2 weeks holiday with my sister to the famous Party Island of Ibiza. Suddenly the world had become a bit smaller and before I knew I was visiting Asia for the first time. Experiencing eating with 2 wooden sticks, Sitting on the floor until I could not feel my legs anymore, and getting a surprise when I discovered the restaurant only had squat toilets.

Today I am back in Asia and live in Singapore. An Island, that is a big city and also a country, connected with a bridge to the bordering country, Malaysia. Along the way I have been in Rio to see the Carnival, I have visited the Amazon, been to Mexico diving the Cenotes, Hiked to Machu Picchu, Seen the wild animals in South Africa, visited the land “Down Under”, Hiked the famous mountains of Himalayas and motor-biked the North Island of New Zealand but still have not made it down to the south Island to see if it is as similar to Norway as Everyone is telling me.

In a way the world have become so much smaller but again so big as the more I travel the more new places I would like to see.

There’s a whole would out there and New Adventure Awaits

Let’s welcome the year of the Goat.

Street Art in Georgetown

I was walking the streets early morning trying to find my way to Yeng Keng Hotel for a briefing of the photo and coffee crawl i had signed up for. A lady boy was trying to get the attention of a man passing buy, but other than that the streets where quiet.

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Georgetown is known for it’s all year around event and festivals so I went for the Art festival, trying to capture a piece of history, culture and art at the same time. Street Art is something that has been popping up all over Georgetown after the Mirrors George Town Festival in 2012.

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Ernest Zacharavic, a young Lithuania-born artist, has painted Penang. Drawings and portraits that celebrate the exuberance of life in the inner city.

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In 1832, Penang formed part of the Straits Settlement with Malacca and Singapore. The Penang maritime port was among the busiest in the region, attracting rich merchants involved in the lucrative trade of tea, spices, porcelain and cloth. The Influence of Asia and Europe have endowed the town with a multicultural heritage. George Towns with residential and commercial buildings represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. Penang became a melting pot for hybrid communities with the mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Siamese and other culture. Settlers and fortune-seekers from all over called Penang home.

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On different corners and places of the city you have the Wrought-iron caricatures with the anecdotal descriptions of the streets that they adorn. One of them being the Cheating husband. The local Chinese say the rich men who lived on Muntri Street kept their mistresses here and by that it is now known by the name Love Lane.

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With the rich heritage, George Town was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Clan Jetties form part of the Penang Heitage Trail. Today six out of seven Jetties remains with Chew Jetty being the biggest and most visited. The Jetties with the old Chinese settlements is home to houses on stilts of various Chinese clans.

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At the Jetty you also find the street art painted on the walls.

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To get to Penang from Singapore you can fly with:

Tiger Air:  http://www.tigerair.com/sg/en/

Jetstar: http://www.jetstar.com/sg/en/home

Air Asia: http://www.airasia.com/sg/en/home.page?gclid=CM2a1bSYw8ICFU8ojgodf18AAQ

Recommended places to stay:

http://www.museumhotel.com.my/

http://campbellhousepenang.com/

Recommended places to eat:

http://www.chinahouse.com.my/

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week on ski at 78 Deg North, from East to West of Spitsbergen

Some reindeer were passing just in front of us as we were reaching Isfjord Radio. The wind was picking up, with a bit of snow in the air. We had completed 160 km on ski, across valleys & Glaciers, from East to West of Spitsbergen/Svalbard, in the Norwegian Arctic. It had been an adventurous week, learning new things along the way.

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A week ago we arrived in Longyearbyen and found our way to the Trapper’s hotel where we spent our first night. Information meeting was held at the hotel, last check and packing of the equipment done, a few things to buy at the local shops and a get to know each other dinner at restaurant “Kroa” just next door.

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I woke up early next morning, exited to get started on this week of adventure, not really knowing what to expect. It was my first time camping in a tent surrounded by snow, also knowing we had to play hide & seek with polar bears. We started our skiing from Agardhbukta, so transport by a vehicle was arranged to get us there. It was a Bandvagn 206 (BV 206), a tracked articulated, all-terrain carrier. 3 guides, 2 dogs and driver in  the front and our group of 12 squeezed in to the back. Quite the interesting experience, but not very comfortable. Knowing it would take at least 6 hours to get to the east coast it was just to start thinking about something else and get used to the bumping up and down.

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Arriving at the east coast I was happy to get out of the car and move my legs again. We organized our gear, got our skies on and were ready to start. It was windy and a bit snow in the air, so I was eager to get going.

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It was my first time skiing with a sledge, but it went well the first day as there was not much up and down. Arriving at the campsite, the next step was to put up our tent. We got some tips from our guides, to use the ski to prepare the ground to be as flat as possible, make sure to secure the tent before starting to put it up for it not to be blown away with the wind, dig a hole inside the outer tent to have head room to stand and make a wall in front of the tent in the wind direction to avoid snow to blow and get stored on the tent. Quite a lot to think about but after a few days it got easier. We also learned the trick of using our ski and poles as tent plugs.

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It was agreed that we would sit up during the night on shift to watch out for the polar bear, so with 2 groups we would have to sit for an hour each every 2nd night. An introduction how to use the signal gun was done. I think we were all exited about the fact that it could happen that we would spot a polar bear. We had to look out for something moving and in case a Polar Bear would come and we had to use the signal gun to scare the Bear and wake up the guides. Sitting up for an hour during the night was like being out during the day as the midnight sun makes the night as bright as day.

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I shared the tent with my 2 friends, Arne and Eva. Arriving at the campsite with wind and cold, we spent the evening inside the tent, eating our dinner, a snaps glass with cognac to make a toast for the day and get our sleeping bags ready for a good night of sleep after a long day skiing.

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The wind was blowing quite strong during the night. We had our breakfast, Rice porridge with Cinnamon and Sugar and some raisins or nuts added to it. Then it was down with the tent, packing the sledge and get ready for a new day. We crossed over the glacier, Passbreen, down Kjellsromsdalen, passing the mining town, Sveagruva, and put up our 3rd campsite at the end of Gustavdalen. The days continued with wind and not much to see as it was all white around us. We kept walking, with a 10 min break every 50 min, to fuel up on some chocolate and snacks.

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At lunch we had our daily supply of “drytech Real turmat”. Just put hot water, shake the pack and wait for 5 min and it was ready to eat.

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Being all white around me and not much to see, I just keep skiing, following the group, most of the time in my own thoughts, thinking about everything and nothing. I got a sense of peace being surrounded by nature. Just skiing listening to the poles touching the snow. Like a kind of meditation.

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At day 4, Arriving at Stormyra the wind stopped. It had been a hard day as most of the day had been skied with a slight slope down on one side as we where skiing along the mountain side. It was difficult to control the sledge not tipping over as it was sliding on the side of me, so I had to try to get a pace that would allow the sledge to follow but not slide down and stop as then it would tip. As we where turning around the mountain we where facing a quite steep uphill followed by a steep downhill before entering down at Stormyra. One of the guide fell and cut his hand on a stone so urgent attention was put to that to see that he was fine to continue. Then it was the challenge to ski down with the sledge as it was sloping both down and to the side, so I chose as some of the others to take the ski off and carry them down. Better be on the safe side to avoid ending up in the fjord and the ice cold water.

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The first part of Stormyra went quite easy and as the wind had stopped and the sun started to show itself between the clouds, so I enjoyed it and just kept walking. Around half way across the ice it became more difficult as the snow started to be more wet and it was like the snow was sucking me down. Every step was heavy, so when we finally stopped at the other side having a break and the guides decided we would camp, it was the best message I could have had. We still had to put up the tent and get organized with our things so when that was done I just sat down in my sledge, found my coffee, having a moment of rest. Totally exhausted.

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Being in the middle of a dream, I heard the words, breakfast in 5 min. Opening my eyes I realized i must have dozed off after my watch during the night. I heard people talking outside in a joy full tone, enjoying the nice weather. I could see when I was up during the night that the weather would be good as it was no wind, just a few clouds on the sky and cold. Showing -9 Deg C on the Thermometer. I had experienced and learned a few things during the first days. Keep everything you want to not be frozen inside your sleeping bag during the night. So wet napkins, my bottle of milk for my coffee (Had to bring a bottle of milk as they where sold out for milk powder in Longyearbyen), my clothes to change for next day, and any other things I wanted to stay warm.

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We all enjoyed the beautiful weather, skiing along the fjord. A few uphill parts but mostly flat until we where turning around the mountain side and was facing the side way slope again. My sledge was not very cooperative and kept turning over. The luggage kept shifting to the side so I had a few stops along the way to re-organize and try to get the weight to the right side.

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We found a nice spot for lunch and where surprised by the guides serving us Cheese and cured meats. During lunch we could hear some birds in the background. Getting up on the hill we saw some rock ptarmigan walking up the hill.

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We continued in the nice weather, passing some reindeer along the way, enjoying the sun and the nice view as we were skiing along the fjord and entering fridtjovhamna. From here we could see Akseloya that is almost crossing from one side of the fjord to the other. just leaving a small pass for the boats to enter.

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It was a beautiful day and even with my sledge not being on my side, this day could not have been more perfect. Entering Fridtjovbreen we put up our camp for the night. Some went with a few of the guides up on the glacier before dinner and some of us just stayed at the tent and relaxed. This evening the guides prepared dinner for us, Salmon with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Being Saturday we had a few shot glasses of whiskey cheering for a fantastic day. Chatting and laughter from the other tents where a sign that they where enjoying the evening as much as us.

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I woke up early next morning and stepping outside the tent all was quiet. The 2 dogs was sleeping. One of them had made himself comfortable in one of the sledge. It was cloudy and a bit of snow in the air, but looked like it might clear up during the day.

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We started off with a few steep uphill parts when entering up on the glacier, Fridtjovbreen, and this morning my sledge was not one with me. I wanted to get up and the sledge wanted to stay down. Looking at the others getting up the slopes without problems I was wondering what they had eaten for breakfast that I did not eat. Maybe it was just that I was tired from the other days of skiing, but with a little support and some push on my sledge from the others i managed to get up the first part. After the first part struggling it became easier. During lunchtime some took the opportunity to have a nap and get some rest for the next part up the glacier.

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The weather kept changing from cloudy to sunny so It was difficult to dress correct to not get cold and not get to hot and sweet, so I kept putting my jacket on and off.

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Arriving at the top of the glacier the weather gods where on our side and the sun where shining. We where facing a stunning view on both side of the glacier and the feeling standing on the top, enjoying the view, felt amazing.

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To ski uphill was quite hard but the downhill with the sledge for me was more challenging. I had to find a techniques to ski with the sledge on the side so it would not overtake me. It took a lot of energy to keep control of the sledge and myself with the ski at the same time.

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We all managed to get down. Some easier than others and some tried the option on sitting on the sledge down. With blue sky and no wind we decided to continue out the valley before setting up the camp. The distance did not seam far and we continued ski, with 50 min ski, 10 min break. Just keep going. It felt like there was no end to the valley. We where on day 6 and the following day we would reach Isfjord Radio, so we all agreed to continue until reaching the sea to get a shorter leg the next day.

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Reaching the sea the sky started to be cloudy and we had a nice light. Almost like a sunset.

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Our last evening sleeping in tent. We had become quite good at setting up and packing down the tent and it felt a bit strange to know that this would be the last time on this trip that we would have to put it up and take it down. I was looking forward to sleeping in a bed again, but still would miss this atmosphere you get when sleeping in tent out in the wild nature.

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Getting organized inside the tent we heard some snowmobile arriving outside. The guides asked us to come outside and again we where surprised with the cook and worker from Isfjord Radio showing up with waffles. What a fantastic surprise. We where all happy, eating and enjoying, until there where no more left. The guides had called them to get some supply of food for the dogs and had not mention anything about waffles. Waffles and Norwegian goat cheese and as Eva still had some crackers left we enjoyed Crackers and cheese for our coffee. And with a shot of whiskey we all forgot that we where exhausted after a long day of skiing. We had done 30 km on ski that day, up Fridtjovbreen, down on the other side and out the valley reaching the sea, enjoying the beautiful weather making us able to enjoy the scenic landscape surrounding us from all angles.

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The Arctic region of Svalbard is incredible and a fantastic location for seeking out wildlife and we where lucky to see a group of bloated walrus laying on the beach. One of them more gray and pale, so we where sure he had seen his last days, but there was still some life in him as he was moving his head.

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Continuing along the coast with the view of Isfjord Radio in front of us.

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Arriving, it was a group of blissful, tired but happy, tanned faces toasting with hot wine, beer and champagne. It was an emotional moment shared with friends and people I got to know during this week that went by way to fast.

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We spent the afternoon enjoying and toasting over some beer and wine, having a well earned shower and was served a 4 course dinner that tasted heavenly. A good night sleep in a bed and then our transport, the sailboat, Noorderlicht, was ready to take us back to Longyearbyen.

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A week together with a fantastic group of people, learning new things along the way was over.

The trip was booked via Hvitserk: http://www.hvitserk.no/

Guides where from Basecamp Spitsbergen: http://www.basecampspitsbergen.com/

Our hotel in Longyearbyen was the Basecamp Trapper’s hotel

 

 

 

Escape to sandy beaches, crystal waters and Mouth watering cuisine

Parador La Huella, A restaurant located at the Beach, just outside the small town of José Ignacio, brings back memory of my visit to Uruguay. The restaurant is located on the outskirt of Punta del Este, also known as the St. Tropez of Uruguay. La Huella is known as one of Uruguay’s number one restaurants with it’s laid back atmosphere, it’s well known sushi dishes and wood-grilled platters and not to mention the location right on the beach front, perfect for a barefoot walk along the sand.

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A year ago just before ester I was visiting Rio Grande Do Sul in Brazil. It is not a town you would spend your ester weekend as most things would be closed and not much happening, so we planned a trip to Uruguay. As Rio Grande is located close to the border of Uruguay we decided to rent a car and drive down. Trying to book a car we realized it was not that easy as all the car rental companies don’t allow you to drive the car outside of Brazil. So we started to look at option of other places to visit in Brazil, but we did not give up on the idea of Uruguay and at the end we found a local company that would rent us a car with the papers needed to cross the border. Then It was the hotel booking. Again, we got a surprise as we would never imagine most hotels would be fully booked at this time of the year. Punta del Este is known for being busy during the summer months from December to March. All hotels in the center of the City was fully booked so we ended up booking a room in a B&B outside of the town. And it ended up being a perfect location for our stay.

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Hitting the road late afternoon on Thursday evening we planned to spend a night on the bordering town, Chui, to split up the journey. Arriving in Chui and checking at the few hotels on both side of the border we realized that it was not only us that had that Idea, so no room available anywhere. We decided to drive to the next town so drove down to La Coronilla. After a few stops and no room available we ended up asking some local people that pointed us in the direction of the beach as they said there would be a hotel there we could check, so we ended up at a rundown hotel that probably was our only option and decided to take it.

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The hotel was in need of some painting and an makeover in my eyes, but well it was a room and a bed to sleep inn. The room had a padlock on the outside of the door and one of these easy locks you just push to the side on the inside. We had to lift the door up a bit to be able to get the lock in place and after shaking some dust out of the woolen blankets it was time to get some sleep.

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We got up early, took a shower in a bathroom that also was in need of some touch up. Looking at the bathroom, It seamed like it probably had been installed with a bathtub before and when they decided to change they put a shower head up in the middle of the wall pointing out where the mid of the bathtub probably had been, so not in the direction you logical would have put it, so with the shower head fixed on the wall pointing out to the bathroom floor and no way to adjust it, it was an interesting project to get some water drops on the body. As we where leaving early we missed the breakfast, but considering the standard of the hotel, we where fine with having our breakfast a place along the way.

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We found a bakery in a town on the way where we stopped for some supply and had our breakfast in the car. It was the only shop we could find that was open this early in the morning. The streets where empty and quiet and only a few person out shopping for some bread.

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We made our check in at the B&B. The house was located just across the road from the beach so it could not have been a more perfect location. It was a small house, nice room and a outside area with a swimming pool and tables where they would serve us breakfast. The host was friendly but only Spanish speaking. With a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and English we all managed to communicate in some way and got some information about the area and the city.

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We took the car and went in to the city center to have a stroll around the town. We walked around in the streets and headed down to the seaside and the beaches that was crowded with people enjoying the sunny day. We tried out some local seafood on the seaside restaurants and had a walk around the more upscale area of the town.

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We found out that a great way to spend our days would be to bike around as we where staying outside of the city center but again not to far out. So with a bicycle it was easy to get to most places that was worth seeing during our stay. So when back at the B&B we managed to organize some bikes being delivered early next morning and we rented them for the rest of our stay and the company would come pick them up at the B&B. It could not be more easy than that.

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Our B&B was located in La Barra. An area with great restaurants and beaches. La Barra is connected to Punta del Este with a Curvy Bridge, so you will get some up and down hill and the most of the road around the area has small curves up and down with small side roads taking you down to the different beaches. A popular activity in the town is fishing and you see it all over. On the pier and down on the beaches. And what could be better than some fresh catch of the day on the grill.

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At the popular seaside playground of Punta del Este, there’s a unique beach vibe for all kind of traveler.

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From the fashionable Bikini beach, where you’ll find sun-kissed, bronzed bodies to more relaxed beaches and not to mention the Playa Brava Beach with Punta del Este’s famous landmark, the monster-sized hand emerging from the sand.

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La Mano en la Arena, sculpted in iron and cement by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal in 1982, won first prize in a monumental art contest that year and has been a Punta fixture ever since.

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Breakfast by the Pool served with ester bunny chocolates, biking around in the city, visit to some of the areas hip beaches, Watching the sunrise early morning walking in the untouched sand, dining at top notch restaurants and time relaxing on the beach was just what we where looking for.

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Punta del Este is well worth a visit. I did not know much about Punta del Este before visiting. I will for sure go back when i have the opportunity. Arriving from outside of Uruguay the best option is to fly in to Montevideo. From Montevideo you can rent a car or take a bus. You can also do like we did and drive from Rio Grande in Brazil and the roads are in good conditions and straight froward easy driving.

 

 

Dandong – North Koreas’s gateway to the world.

Technically I have had my feet in North Korea and I have swept in and out of North Korean waters.

Most tourist journey to Seoul and the demilitarized zone along the South Korean border to get a glimpse of the neighbor state of North Korea. I did the alternative and ventured of to the friendly neighbor, China and Dandong, a riverside city in Northeast China’s Liaoning province. It is North Korea’s gateway to the world and from here you can get a great view of the North Korea Kingdom from across the Yalu River.

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Dandong is the largest Chinese border city, facing Sinuiju, North Korea. The Yalu broken bridge is one of the big attractions to this city and next to it you have the new friendship bridge that today is one of the few ways to enter or leave North Korea, it carries automobile and rail traffic. Pedestrians are not allowed to cross. As I could not walk on the friendship bridge to cross over to North Korea, something I would have loved to do, I bought a ticket to walk on the broken bridge, walked as far as it is possible to walk, so technically I’ve had my feet in North Korea. The bridge was built in 1911 by Japanese and was blown apart by the US during the Korean War.

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Just outside of the City Center you find the easternmost section of the Great Wall of China. The Tiger mountain Great Wall was constructed to protect against Korea invaders during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasty and is another great place to view the Kingdom of North Korea. This was one of the places I wanted to see during my stay. I climbed to the top to enjoy the view of both China and North Korea. I had to watch my footing on the way as some of the parts are quite steep.

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The famous Yibukua “one step across” near the entrance, marks a narrow point in the river between North Korea and China. Though it almost seem as if you could just hop the fence and be in the North Korea, It’s not something I would try out as there are armed soldiers hiding on the other side.

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I checked in at the Crowne Plaza that is located just next to the river so a perfect location to see the City. I took a stroll along the River to get a feel of the city and how the local look at the bordering City of North Korea. All along the river they are trying to sell you North Korean currency and other North Korean articles.

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On my way to the Hekou Broken Bridge I took a boat trip on the river in a small speed boat. We where sweeping in and out of North korean waters and It is great for photos but entering the boat i was warned not to take photos of the soldiers. I limited my photos to be on the safe side.

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Some women soldiers was taking a swim behind these walls and It was something I would have loved to capture with my camera but the warning was still  in the back of my head and the boat guide kept telling me to hide my camera so I only took a shot of the walls knowing that the women soldiers where enjoying a swim on the other side.

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On the way to the Hekou Broken Bridge we drove along the river seeing the daily life of the local people. On one side the Chines living one life and just across the river the North Korean living a total different life.

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Here a Chines fisher and the North Korean farmers and soldiers on the other side. So close but living in to different worlds.

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All along the river you find broken bridges reminding everyone of the war.

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I arrived at the Hekou Broken Bridge. The broken bridge at river mouth. As I was passing the bronze bust of Mao I found the bridge empty.

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Arriving at the end of the bridge I passed a picture of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (R), and North Korean late leader Kim Il Sung. I passed the poster and hit a dead end. A metal fence stopped me from getting any further. It was the end of a bridge that before had been a connection between China and North Korea.

I visited Dandong in 2012 during a business trip to Dalian in China and took the buss from Dalian to Dandong.

Where to stay

The best view of North Korea is from the Crowne Plaza hotel located on the banks of the Yalu River.

For cheaper rooms, the Chinese business hotel chain Home Inns is a good option.

How to get there

Flights are available from Dandong airport to most parts of the country .

From Beijing there’s an overnight train (K27) to Dandong that takes about 13 hours.

Dandong can also be reached by bus from the seaside city of Dalian. The trip takes 4.5 hours. Busses depart from Victory Square in downtown Dalian.

 

 

 

 

Formula One in Kuala Lumpur

A powerful symbol of excellence. Formula One, racing across five continents and one of the circuits, being the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, is where I watched Lewis Hamilton getting in as number one. What an amazing experience.

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The regularly updated Sepang International Circuit of Malaysia, is a great spectators circuit, built in a stadium-like manner. The circuit lays in a valley which enables you to see almost half of the circuit at all times irrespective of where you sit.

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The big concern for the teams in Malaysia was the heat and humidity, which stretched the reliability of the new hybrid turbo power units to the limit. It was a tough affair for both drivers and cars. April being the month with the highest rainfall of the year in Malaysia and average temperatures of 26 degrees centigrade. Having the race at the beginning of this season, the drivers had to be prepared for some some changing weather conditions.

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Out of the 22 starters only 15 made it to the end.

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Since its inauguration in 1999, the Sepang circuit in Malaysia has come to be regarded as one of the toughest for teams and drivers as very hot and humid conditions stretch the competitors to their physical extreme. As the first of a now extensive portfolio of Hermann Tilke designed Grand Prix circuits, it follows his trademark style of long straights followed by a heavy-braking zone, which allows for slip-streaming and out-braking manoeuvres.

 

 

Circuit length 5.543 km
Race distance 310.408 km
Laps 56

 

Race Calendar

 

 

A Day Trip to Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin is home to Singapore’s last villages called kampongs and some say it’s how Singapore looked like back in the 1960’s. A 10 min bump boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal and you are on the shore of a treasure house of wild plants and animals. According to folklore, hilly Ubin was formed when an elephant, a pig and a frog challenged one another to cross the waters to Johor, across the Straits of Johor. Whichever failed — and all three did — was turned to stone. The pig and elephant became Pulau Ubin, and the frog Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island), visible from Ubin’s southern coast.

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Now and then when I feel like getting away for the City life in Singapore this is one of the places I venture off too. I rent a bike and once on the bike I just trundle off to see where the road takes me. And what a nice feeling to be surrounded by mother nature. As soon as your off the boat the bike stores are there trying to convince you to rent a bike from them. The prices differs from S$2 to S$10 for a day and so do the quality of the bikes. As you arrive you enter a tiny village with a few stores and some restaurants and from there a few paved roads fan out to coastal campsites and the Chek Jawa Wetlands.

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I was on one of the paved roads when I spotted this Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) crossing the road. I was curious to see where it was heading and wanted to try to capture a good shot of it, so in a moment, my fare of snakes suddenly vanished. I followed the snake with my camera as it was elegantly finding its way up some plants alongside the road. At this time I had informed my friends about the snake. I probably yelled out loud, there is a snake, knowing myself right as I’m not particular found of snakes and if I can avoid seeing them I’m quite happy. Having my friends around made me feel a bit more safe being this close to it. The snake did not seem to be affected of us looking at it and it was just finding its way slowly up the trees. We where all excited and tried to get some shots of it, but being long and thin with a green color it was not easy as it was blending in with the nature.

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Another animal I have bumped in to many times on the Island is the wild boar. Another interesting animal and looking at it I would not like to get to close to it.

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Maps are placed in most of the junctions on the paved road telling you where you are and for you to get an overview of where you are heading. There is small paths of the main road that are interesting to follow if you feel like getting out of the main stream. You will pass houses on the way and most places is selling cold drinks and a few places you can hire a boat to see the Island from the sea.

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It’s mainly the older generation still living on the Island and it’s not many of them left. They seam to have a laid back attitude and enjoy the quiet way of living.

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The younger generation have moved to Singapore to find work and take the trip back to Ubin to visit family. As the 3 sisters I started to chat with on my last trips to the Island. They where down in the mangroves collecting Oysters.

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I saw them when I was passing by and was curious to what they where collecting so started to talk to one of them. She excused herself for not speaking much English, but I could understand some of what she was telling. Her sister was opening the oysters and collecting them in her bucket. She told me they used to live on the Island but they had all moved to Singapore. Her parents had lived on the Island until they passed away not long ago. So they still use to come over at least once a month to collect oysters and spend the day on the Island.

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It as fascinating to see how the women opened the oysters and handled them. I meet the sister I talked with again a bit later in the day, standing on the side of the road with her trolley, looking up in the trees. She saw me and tried to show me a durian tree but for me it was hard to spot it. So I asked where her sisters where and she told me they where down in the field collecting some vegetables. I smiled friendly to her and wished her a good day and continued my journey.

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Alongside the road you find the lotus ponds and I like to stop and look at the dragonfly whenever I can spot them.

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The chek Jawa Wetlands is another interesting place to visit. Chek Jawa is made up of 7 interdependent ecosystems – namely, its coastal forest, mangrove forest, its rocky shore, the sandy shore, sand bar, sea grass lagoon and the coral rubble. Within each of the ecosystems, there is an abundance of natural creatures, rare plants, local and migratory birds.

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At house number 1 you have the visitor center. There is a boardwalk out on the sea, another around the wetland and a tower if you are interested in walking up to look at the view. The tower becomes quite shaky if there is lots of people up at the same time, so I would recommend to get up when the crowd i less.

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Shaped like a boomerang, Pulau Ubin (Granite Island) is situated just off the north-eastern corner of mainland Singapore. A trip to Pulau ubin is a journey back in time, back to basic, back to the nature and perfect for a day trip.

How to Get There: Bumboats to Pulau Ubin leave from Changi Point Ferry Terminal when 12 passengers are ready to board, cost 2.50 Singapore dollars each, or charter the whole boat for 30 dollars. Bumboats to and from Pulau Ubin, and public transport on the island operate from sunrise to sunset

Getting Around: You can get around by foot, rent a bike or hire a taxi.

Dining: Some seafood restaurant are located at the main village as soon as you get off the boat.

Staying: There are basic campsites on the island (campers have to register at the park kiosk by the Ubin jetty), and you have the Celelstial Ubin Beach Resort close to the jetty.

The Green Corridor of Singapore

A few weeks ago after hiking Bukit timah I discovered the Green Corridor of Singapore. I was on my way down to the main road to catch a cab and saw some people climbing up a steep path to the top of a small bridge. Being curious I decided to follow the path to see what was up there. Arriving on the bridge I realized I was on Singapore’s old railway line. Some friends told me about it and I wanted to check it out but never got around to do it. Little did i know that every time I had walked below this bridge it had been there right above my head.

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On 1 July 2011, the historical Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was closed for good. It was replaced with the Woodlands Railway Station that’s close to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. With the closure of the old railway station, the entire stretch of land from Tanjong Pagar in South to Woodlands in North was re-developed. Malaysia took back its railway tracks and stretch of lush greenery was made in to what today is known as the Green Corridor.

This morning when I woke up I decided to go back and hike the Green Corridor. It was cloudy outside so a good weather to hike here in Singapore as it can be quite hot and humid during a sunny day. I packed my backpack with some water, some snack and sunblock. Looking out the window it looked like it might be a good chance it would rain, so in the last minute i grabbed an umbrella just in case. I can survive some rain, but I was more worried for my camera in case of heavy rain. I started the hiking off Lover delta Road as i live close to here and I found a path going down next to the bridge.

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A few people passed by, one on a bike and some running.

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I walked in the direction of Bukit Timah and my plan was to walk there and see how the weather was and if good my plan was to continue to the end and the woodlands. It was still cloudy but no rain yet. I walked along the path that had become more yellow as it had not been raining in Singapore for some weeks. I walked for a few km without meeting any people. Maybe due to that it was early Sunday morning or that it was a good chance for rain or just that not a lot of people know about this track.

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It started to drizzle a bit but I kept my umbrella in the backpack and kept walking for another km or so before the heavy rain started.

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I passed this village/kampong-like house along the track. In the days before the public housing was wide-spread, many people in Singapore stayed in houses like this and it is not common to see in Singapore today. At this point the rain had become more heavy so I took shelter under a bridge where they had done some artwork on the walls.

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I realized the rain would not stop so I continued my walk. Passing the next bridge a group of people was doing the same as I had done and had taken shelter under a bridge and some did not mind the rain at all. Or maybe they just did not have the time or patience to wait it out as it looked like it would last for some time.

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I was enjoying the nature and being able to walk continues km after km without having to pass any road. I could just hear the traffic passing above me when crossing under the bridges.

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I passed the Bukit Timah Railway Station that is still there today. It is blocked off by a fence so it is not possible to get in to the station. At this station there where several railway tracks to control the different trains coming in different directions to not come on collision course. These where manual operated so not like today where you have the electronic to control the circuits.

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So here I was back where I discovered the Green Corridor a few weeks ago. Just next to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

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Due to the heavy rain and I could hear the Thunder and Lightning coming I decided to end my journey at this point and not continue as planned.

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So the continue of the trail will have to be for my next adventure and hopefully with less rain than today. Even do I enjoyed my walk in the rain.

If you are looking for a day out walking, biking or running this is one of the places to look for.

For more information about the Green Corridor check out the following sites:

http://www.thegreencorridor.org/

http://www.sla.gov.sg/htm/BTRS/BTRS.htm