Island

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

 

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.

A Tropical Temptation

When I first moved to Singapore I wanted to take a trip with my son to celebrate his birthday, This was back in 2007 and searching for a place not to far from Singapore I discovered this beautiful little Island called Nikoi.
The Island is located of the coast of the Island Bintan in Indonesia.

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So to get to Nikoi we had to take the ferry to Bintan. At the immigration we where meet by the staff from the Island. A car was waiting for us and took us to another part of Bintan Island and from there we where transported in a small Speed Boat to the Island.

Arriving at the Island we had to get off the boat on the beach as the only pier was under construction and not suitable for dropping us off in a small Speed Boat. This made the feeling of being on an adventure more complete. With little information about the Island upfront, we where both exited how this weekend would be.

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On the beach we where meet by the staff for a welcome drink and then shown to our Chalet that would be our home for the weekend. The Chalets are mostly built from old washed-up wood. The Chalets are open with no glass and being right at the beach you fall asleep to the soft sound of the waves.

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At the time we where there 6 Chalets had been completed and new one where under construction. The Chalets is built to have natural ventilation and with no air condition installed. Mosquito net are installed above the bed and you really feel like being in a tropical paradise.

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Arriving late and just in time for dinner we where introduced to the other visitor at the Island as everyone where seated at the long table for dinner. As the Island was newly opened the only visitors was another group of 5 people and the 2 of us. Then another 2 persons where expected to arrive the next day.

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Our plan for the Saturday was to explore the Island and as it is a small Island, It did not take us long. To walk around the Island took us around 30 min. Walking around the Island we got to walk through the mangroves and we ended back up where they where building the swimming pool close to the Chalets. Most of what you can do on the island is water sports, relax in the sun or play games as there where no Internet and no TV. They also have some climbing on a big rock on the island for the one interested in that.

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We went to the beach and spent some time there and tried out the kayak. Our plan was to try to paddle out to the rock looking like and Ipad, but dark clouds was getting closer and the waves got bigger and a tropical storm was about to hit the Island.

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It started to rain heavy with thunder and lightning so we went back to our chalet to relax before dinner.  During dinner it was still raining heavy with thunder and lightning and suddenly the lightening stroke and hit the Island Generator. It felt like something strong hit the ground and the light was shut down. The feeling of sitting in the open air just covered with a roof above us with no walls and feeling the forces of the nature was a strange feeling and a bit scary as we where very close to where the lightning stroke. I think we where all in a kind of shock after this and kept talking about how close it was so the dinner ended up a bit different then it started. The rain stopped and the weather changed. The Generator was fixed and electricity came back on.

The staff had noticed it was Aleksander’s birthday as we had to give a copy of our passport on arrival, so they surprised him with a cake and the evening was celebrated with Cake & Drinks.

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The next day we had to return back to Singapore so the first group where leaving just after breakfast and we where leaving just after lunch.The staff on the Island where down on the beach to wish everyone a safe trip back and thanking them for visiting the Island.

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As in this tropical climate you never know when the rain will come and and when it comes it comes fast with heavy rain so just before we where to take the boat back the rain started again. This time without the thunder and lightning and lucky for us as we where going to spend about and hour in a small speed boat to get back to Bintan.

Even with the tropical storm hitting the Island with the lightning cutting the electricity the weekend had been fantastic and I was planning to return to this Island at a later time and so I did in 2011.

This time It was not so easy to book a stay at the Island as it had become more known to people and special to people living or visiting Singapore, so I was lucky and managed to book a stay for a weekend and here I was back on this beautiful Tropical Island.

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The Island had not changed much but had a few upgrades, so the small speed boat was changed out to a larger one with cover. A new jetty had been built, the rest of the Chalets was completed so now there is a total of 15 Chalets that has different sizes and the swimming pool had been completed.

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A Lizard is out for a walk and was trying to take a swim in the pool.

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The sunset is still amazing and they still make the fire at the beach in the evening.

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The Island is not the place if you need to be connected to Internet or need a TV, but if you are looking for some days just feeling the peace and quiet this is the perfect place. It is still a tropical temptation even do with a little less Robinson Crusoe touch to it.

To book your stay at Nikoi Island you can log in to: http://www.nikoi.com