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Summer in Sapporo: Things you can do

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Sapporo is widely known for its white and smooth snow during its winter season. Every year, this city will host the world’s most popular snow festival named as “Sapporo Yuki Matsui” which commence in early February. Apart from its glorious festival, Sapporo also has one of the best ski resorts located nearby the city.   

Sapporo is the fifth-largest city in Japan and the capital city of Hokkaido. It is believed Sapporo is the coolest winter destinations in Japan. And with all winter themes attractions making up the image of Sapporo, what else can we do if we visit Sapporo out of winter season? I mean as for an example, summer in Sapporo?   

Temperature in Summer  

 As for my last visit to Sapporo during Summer, my initial thought about how the temperature will be during summer differs totally from what I have in mind. Wandering around the city with my shorts while enjoying ice lemonade. Little that I know in actuality, during the day, the temperature in Sapporo will be around 20°C and during the night the temperature will get as low as 13°C.   

With all the clothes I pack for my stay, it is totally inappropriate. However, I manage to get through it all. Oh well, lessons learned!  

Must try food  

i) Eat crabs  

Crabs are one of the foods you must try while in Sapporo. It is widely known that crabs are a major delicacy in Hokkaido. You could order crabs almost anywhere in Sapporo and it’s really not that hard to find for you to taste it.   

There are several ways you could enjoy eating it either eaten it raw, cooked or grilled.   

ii) Yubari Melon  

Yubari Melon is another brand that is well—known in Hokkaido. It has a bright orange color inside it and will be the sweetest melon you will ever taste.   

It is said that the high maintenance to produce this high-quality melon is what makes this melon expensive. Yubari King Melon once sold for a price up to JPY 3,000,000.    

Explore the cities  

i) Sapporo TV Tower & Mt Moiwa  

Sapporo TV Tower located in the center of Sapporo City and have a towering height of 147.2 meters. This tower offers a fantastic panoramic view of the city during night or day from the observation deck. With its majestic view, it is enough to make this tower as a symbol of Sapporo.  

Nominated as the top three best night view in Japan what makes Mount Moiwa popular. Mount Moiwa is a mountain located in the southwest of central Sapporo. With a high at 531 meters, Mount Moiwa offers you an observation deck reachable by cable car. They also have set up a “Happy Bell” at the top of the mountain which is a sacred place for lovers.  

What I love about how they operate their business is how honest and transparent they are. Before you even buy the ticket or redeem your cable car ticket, there will be a television which shows a live feed from the top of the mountain. You could check from the ticketing counter if the view above is worth to go or not. If the visibility is low, the staff will surely recommend to not buy the ticket and come again another day.   

ii) Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade, Susukino  

Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade is one of Sapporo’s famous place to visit. This shopping arcade host around 200 shops such as souvenir shops, karaoke bars, restaurants, fashion stores and many more along its 1km—long road from east to west. This street is the oldest shopping streets in Hokkaido and established around 150 years ago.   

Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade

My favorite shopping spot in Tanuki Koji is at Don Quijote shop. These humongous five levels shop open for 24—hours where a huge variety of items await your picking. I highly recommend if you short of times to buy souvenirs for your friends and family back home, you can just focus on this shop alone.  

Susukino

iii) Odori Park  

Hidden in the center of the city that separates the city into north and south is where Odori Park located. This park spans about 1.5 km and an oasis to 92 types of trees which contributed to the increase in the greenery within Sapporo.   

This lush green park has fountains, flower beds and serves as a popular picnic and relaxation spot to locals and visitors. While during night time, this park will be dominated by local skaters and musicians who will showcase their talents to visitors. Odori Park is popular in winter, summer and autumn seasons.  

Explore farms tour  

A one-day bus tour is highly recommended if you want to visit all popular farms without wasting your precious time and money. Going from one farm to another will consume time and money as the farm located quite far from each other especially if you take public transportation. Hence, what we did last time is to book a one—day Furano and Tomita Farm Day Tour from Klook.   

Our day starts with a visit to Hokusei-no-oka Observatory Park to indulge ourselves in the stunning flower fields. After that, we head to Shikisai-no-oka where we get lost in the colorful sea of flowers, with over a dozen different species. This place has stunning panoramic views of Hokkaido’s natural landscape with rows of flowers that reaches the horizon.  

Hokusei-no-oka Observatory Park
Shikisai-no-oka

They then serve us with an authentic Japanese buffet for our lunch. This trip also generously includes all-you-can-eat Yubari Melon buffet for us. With our energy replenished, our guide takes us to Farm Tomita which offers us a vibrant color of lavender, poppy, cosmos, and Kasumi in the flower garden park. Inside the farm, there is a Popurri’s Inn, Perfume House, Flowerman House, Distilling Inn and Poppy’s Inn where you can observe the process of perfume are being made.   

Our last stops for the day will be the Ningle Terrace. This place is located in the forest of the New Furano Prince Hotel where it’s an area where you can leisurely stroll in beautiful cottages and enjoy shopping in the middle of nature.   
  

Ningle Terrace

Jozankei Onsen   

It is estimated that 2.4 million people will visit Jozankei Onsen yearly making it as one of the most popular hot spring districts in Hokkaido. These hot springs are less than an hour’s drive south from the center of the city. There are at least 56 hot springs sources scattered around in Jozankei district which hot water at a temperature of 60°C to 80°C surface each minute.  

Jozankei District

In order to reach here, you can hop on the Kappa Liner, a shuttle bus that departs from Sapporo Station, Odori, and Susukino which offers 13 daily shuttle services. However, this shuttle bus required a reservation before you can use them.   

Otaru Canal  

The history of the Otaru Canal started in the year of 1923, where this canal is being used to transport the goods from smaller ships to the warehouse until it became obsolete when modernization of facilities takes over. However, thanks to the locals, some parts of this canal were restored to be one of the leading tourists’ spots in Hokkaido and became popular.  

Otaru Canal

The Otaru Canal located around at least a ten-minute walk from the JR Otaru Station. Walk down Chuo Street towards Otaru Port and you will arrive at one of the three bridges going across the canal, Chuo—Bashi.  

The canal makes a pleasant stroll during the day with its cobblestone walkway, retro-designed gas lamps and stone warehouses which bring the canal back to its glorious times. While in the evening, the canal and the warehouses will all lit up and change the atmosphere completely different from during in the day.  

The Laidback Vacation in Jeju, South Korea.

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Jeju Island belongs to South Korea and has long been the country’s favorite domestic holiday and also for travelers. What made Jeju become a popular destination is thanks to its beautiful beaches, freshest seafood, volcanic landmarks, green tea plantations, and its natural world heritage sites.  

Going to Jeju is easy since this place practicing a liberal visa requirement. All year round, Jeju has a moderate climate and even in winter, the temperature rarely falls below 0 °C.   

This island features a dormant volcanic Hallasan in the center of the island, a 224-kilometer semi-topical forested national park, a coastline filled with waterfalls and the longest lava tube in the world. With all these features, Jeju recently has been listed as one of the new seven wonders of the natural world.  

i) The Initial Preparation   

Our visit to Jeju Island happens to be between the six of us. Our mission while visiting Jeju is to cover all the top attractions on the island with our main highlight which is to hike Mount Hallasan.  

Before starting our journey to Jeju, we did some preparations beforehand. Since Jeju is a visa-free entry for most countries, applying a visa does not apply to us. Our next step is to book places for us to stay and also our mode of transportation.   

For places to stay, we choose to use booking.com to search for the best place for us to stay. And based on our needs, we divide our stay to be in two different locations which are north and south of Jeju. As for your information, booking.com right now has this neat feature whereby you can choose either to search for a hotel or apartment to stay during your vacations. This proves to be useful since now you can exactly plan which type of places might suit your budget and preferences.  

As for our transportation, we choose to rent a car for our stay in Jeju. But before we could rent a car, some requirements are needed. First is you must have a valid driving license from your original country (if you are from the United States of America, driving permit issued by The American Automobile Association is acceptable) and secondly you have to apply for the International Driving Permit issued by Geneva or Vienna Convention. Plus, they have certain age limits for a type of car for you could rent. As for an example, the age limit to drive a 4-seater car is 21 years old.   

I highly recommend you to choose Lotte Rent-a-Car if you decide to rent a car while in Jeju. Booking a car from them is easy and you could get up to a 60% discount when you register to be a member of their website at lotterentacar.net. And if you do have any questions, hit them an email (engreserve@lotte.net) and they will get back to you in a jiffy. But if renting a car is not your cup of tea, using public transportation in Jeju is also doable. 

ii) Day 1 – Departing to Jeju Island  

Upon our arrival in Jeju Island, we immediately headed out to get our rental car. Just head out from the airport, go to the right side and hop on to the shuttle bus that will take you to the car rental house. Be sure to take the correct shuttle bus according to your rental car company.  

It took us around 15 minutes before we are ready to hit the road and head to check in to our first stay located on the outskirt of Seogwipo. It’s a beautiful villa with an enormous garden in front of it.  

Since its winter season, it will get dark quite early. After unpacking our bags and stuff, we go out and found a small local restaurant not far away from our house to fill in our tummy before getting our rest for tomorrow’s adventure.   

iii) Day 2 – Visiting Seogwipo  

  • Osulloc Tea Museum
  • Innisfree Jeju House
  • Yongmeori Coast
  • Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff
  • Yeomiji Botanical Garden
  • Cheonjeyeon Waterfall

First thing in the morning we get our prepared breakfast before starting our first place to visit which is to Osulloc Tea Museum and Innisfree Jeju House. These two places located nearby within each other with just 3 minutes’ walking distance.  

Here in Osulloc Tea Museum, you could learn about Korean tea history and its tradition. Inside here, there is an indoor garden, Tea Cup Gallery, Tea Stone, Tea Store, and Tea House.   

While over the retail area, you will see a lot of diversity of tea that you could buy. If you are lucky, some of the tea is offered for free and serve as a tester. And while you are here, please don’t forget to try the insanely famous green tea latte and green tea roll cake at the Tea House.  

After spending some time in Osulloc Tea Museum, we continue our tour to the Innisfree Jeju House. If you are wondering about Innisfree, here’s some insight about it. Innisfree is a South Korean all-natural ingredients cosmetics brand and originated from Jeju. All of their products are created with high-quality ingredients and sourced from Jeju.  

Other than offering you with Innisfree products line, the Innisfree Jeju House also offers natural soap making classes, cosmetic testing, making a face mask, free plain postcards for you to stamp on it and also Innisfree Café.  

After spending ample time in both of these places, we head out to Yongmeori Coast. Yongmeori which means dragon head got its name because the beach looks like a dragon jumping into the ocean with its head raised.   

In here, you will see a sandstone bed created by layers of sand that have been deposited for ten million years. It is highly advisable before you come here to check the tides since visitors are only allowed to walk along the Yongmeori Coast during low tides only. Nevertheless, this place will also be closed during high tides, high winds, high waves, and any dangerous weather conditions.  

Our next stop will be to Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff. This place offers you a view of stone pillars piled up along the coast that is formed when the lava from the Hallasan Mountain erupted into the Sea of Jungmun.  

There is nothing much to do other than viewing the Jusangjeolli Cliff and taking pictures of this spectacular place. We did spend around 30 minutes in this area and quickly hop on to our next stop.   

Next on our list is Yeomiji Botanical Garden. This place is without a doubt is a place for those who love gardening and photography. Yeomiji Botanical Garden is one of the best botanical gardens in Asia. This place divided into two spaces to explore namely;  

i) Indoor Garden  

These three acres glass greenhouse have a divided section which is Mystery Garden, Central Hall, Flower Garden, Aquatic Garden, Cactus Garden, Jungle Garden, and Tropical Fruit Garden. While at the center there is a 35-meter tall observation tower in which you could take an elevator to go all the way to the top.   

ii) Outdoor Garden  

A 24-acres big land that holds various kinds of warm temperate and temperate zone plants in various gardens including Japanese, Korean, Italian, French as well as Jeju Natives Garden.  

During our visit to Yeomiji Botanical Garden which is in the winter season, the condition of the outdoor garden was not very overwhelming. Although the indoor garden was still spectacular to see, our overall expectation for this place gets tarnish with the presentation of the outdoor garden. Well, what’s more, to expect for us to have when you have a 6°C temperature outside. Perhaps when it is during summer or spring season, this place was worth the time to visit, if not, might as well skip it.  

The last stop for us today will be to Cheonjeyeon Waterfall which means “the ponds of God”. It is located just a 2-minute drive away from Yeomiji Botanical Garden. Before reaching any of the waterfalls, you will cross the Seonimgyo Bridge which means seven nymphs bridge. Cheonjeyeon Waterfall could be divided into 3 sections of waterfalls;  

i) The First Tier Waterfall  

The first-tier waterfall runs from the floor of the mountain on the upper part of Jungmun –dong and pours which create fall for 22 meters. The waterfall in this area could only be seen when there are rains.   

ii) Second Tier Waterfall  

 From the first tier, the waterfall will fall again creating the second-tier waterfall (30 meters).  

iii) Third Tier Waterfall  

Finally, the water flows into the ocean after falling from the third-tier waterfall. The trail to the third-tier waterfall is the longest which requires you to climb stairs for about 10 – 15 minutes. 

iv) Day 3 – Hike to Mount Hallasan  

Our main highlight for our trip to Jeju is to hike Mount Hallasan during winter. As this is our first-time hiking during winter, here is our best recommendation for those who wish to do the same. Click on this link to read further; Winter Hiking: Useful Tips for Beginner.  

Mount Hallasan has four to five trails for you to choose from. However, there are only two trails that will lead you to the summit of the mountain which is Gwaneumsa Trail and  Seongpanak Trail.   

i) Gwaneumsa Trail   

  • Gwaneumsa – Dongneung Peak  
  • 8.7 km distance one way  
  • Take about 4 to 5 hours one way  

Gwaneumsa is a shorter and steeper trail but will offer a more scenic and making it well worth to get here.   

ii) Seongpanak Trail   

  • Seongpanak – Dongneung Peak  
  • 9.7 km distance one way  
  • Take 3 to 4.5 hours one way  

Seongpanak is the longest trail but it is also the easiest trail to get to the summit of Mount Hallasan, making this trail to be the most used trail by visitors. This trail usually gets busy at the weekend and could be reached via public transport.  

Both of these trails start at different spots. Usually, most of the hikers choose to climb using Seongpanak Trail and descent using Gwaneumsa Trail since it is easier using this way and you get to experience both trails in one climb.  

We woke up early this morning. Around 05:30 am all of us are already woke up and ready to go. The journey to the starting point will be at Gwaneumsa Camping Site. The night before, all of us agree to choose Gwaneumsa Trail for our hike today. We agreed to do this since we are already in Jeju and why not challenge ourselves and see how far our body can go. It is once in a lifetime experience and we need to savor every minute of it.   

Do take note that if you wanted to hike using Seongpanak Trail, the starting point will be at Seongpanak Trail Information Center, which located nearby Seogwipo.   

We start our hike around 06:30 am. Although it’s still dark, a lot of hikers already start their hiking way ahead of us. Along the way, you’ll see signage and approximate kilometers on how far to go making getting lost while hiking Mount Hallasan is almost impossible to happen.   

Based on our experience, although the official website and all the signage shows us the total kilometer for you to hike Mount Hallasan is 8.7 km, my fitness tracker recorded otherwise. Total we hike from the starting point to the summit of Mount Hallasan is actually almost 12.5 km. Way more than what they claimed.   

The first hour of our hike went smoothly. The trail is fairly easy and there are no snows in our ways. After the first 3 km of our hike, things start to get tough for us. Most of the time, we need to ascend and the terrains are getting harder for us. The cold weather added with snows making our journey even harder.   

During our hike, the snow falling on us making the temperature drop to –7 °C. With our limited water and food supplies that we bring, it even makes our hike even challenging that what we anticipated.  

The first checkpoint before climbing to the top of Mount Hallasan will be at Samgakbong shelter. Here is the point where you need to arrive before 12:30 pm or else you are not allowed to climb to the summit of Mount Hallasan.  

According to them, hiking at night is not permitted because it is dangerous to do so. And for us, we manage to arrive at Samgakbong shelter around 11:30 am. There is a small shelter for us to rest together with other hikers.  

A toilet is also available here with a heater inside it. Unfortunately, there are no sellers that could be found in Samgakbong shelter. In our imagination, there will be sellers selling snacks, foods or drinks so we could replenish our energy but sadly none of it could be found.  

Around 12:30 pm, we resume our journey to the top of Mount Hallasan. Along the way, we met a lot of other hikers who are using Gwaneumsa Trail to descend and using Seongpanak Trail to climb to the summit of Mount Hallasan.   

At this hour, although we are tired, we have to push ourselves to the top because after 01:30 pm the ranger at the top of Mount Hallasan will start to ask all hikers to begin clearing the area and start descending from the mountain.  

Using all our effort, we manage to reach the summit at 01:20 pm. The view was breathtaking and with our little preparation, we finally manage to arrive here at the top of it. Something that we could proud of.   

There is a frozen lake at the center of the crater. The wind blows heavily while we taking our pictures. And right at 01:30 pm, the ranger sounds the siren indicating all hikers to hike back down.   

To us, the view from Samgakbong shelter until the top of Mount Hallasan is the best view that we see. At 05:30 pm, we end our hike with the new experience gained.   

We believe our time spend to hike in Mount Hallasan could be better if we did our homework and prepare properly beforehand. And if you are happened to be a first-time hiker during winter, please do read the guide here at Winter Hiking: Useful Tips for Beginner, so that your next hike during winter will sail without a problem.  

After we had our dinner, all of us called it a day as we deserved an early rest. 

v) Day 4 – A Trip to Jeongbang Waterfall and Manjanggul Cave  

After getting enough rest, today, most of us are already fully recovered from our hike yesterday. Today is also our last day staying in Seogwipo before we will be moving on to the cabin house by the lake located in West of Jeju Island, Gujwa – eup.   

We purposely start our day a little bit late than usual since today our list of places to visit is not a lot. Our aim is to visit Jeongbang Waterfall and Manjanggul Cave.  

At 10:00 am in the morning, all of us are ready to start our day. Our first stop for today is Jeongbang Waterfall. This waterfall was chosen as one of the Ten Scenic Sights of Jeju with the name of “Jeongbanghapok”.   

What makes Jeongbang Waterfall even special is because it is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. After paying for the entrance fee, there is a platform to walk down to take us to the whole scene of 23 meters high waterfall shooting over the cliff and falling to the rocks below that lead to the ocean.  

Just nearby the Jeongbang Waterfall, you can see a group of ajummas under the small tent. They are Haenyeo which means sea divers; diving for seaweeds, sea cucumbers and abalone. It is possible to try and taste fresh abalone sashimi by directly buying from them as they are more than happy if you do so.  

We spend almost an hour in Jeongbang Waterfall before we moving on to check in to our second stay which is a cabin house located at Gujwa – eup. This time in front of our house the view has changed to a beautiful lake view that flows into the ocean.   

There are a lot of cranes, ducks swimming in the lake adding a bonus to the serenity and peacefulness of this place. Later in the evening at 03:00 pm, we made ourselves available for our second place to visit; Manjanggul Cave.   

Manjanggul Cave is a UNESCO World Heritage, which was formed by volcanic lava. The total length of the Manjanggul Cave is about 7.4 km but only 1 km is open to visitors. The main tunnel width is about 18m and its height is about 23m.   

Manjanggul Cave is one of the largest and well-preserved lava tubes in the world. Along the way inside Manjanggul Cave, we learn a lot from the information board that is available for visitors to read.   

There is various cave formation made from the lava flows such as stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, lava tubes, lava shelves, and lava rafts. At the end of the visitor area, there is a lava column which is 7.6m high and known to be the highest lava column in the world.  

After spending some time in Manjanggul Cave, we head out to get our dinner before going back to get our rest.  

vi) Day 5 – Sunrise in Seongsang Illchulbong Peak  

  • Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak
  • Seopjikoji
  • Jeju Folk Village Museum
  • Jeju Loveland

Today, we woke up early at 04:30 am in order to catch the sunrise in Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. It is wise to check what time the sun will rise before planning for the day. And for us, google told us the sunrise will happen at Seongsan Ilchulbong exactly at 06:20 am.  

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is made from a volcanic eruption over 100,000 years ago. The huge crater of 600m in diameter and 90m tall could be observed at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak.   

In 2011, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is named as one of the seven wonders of nature in the world. Plus, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hence, no trip to Jeju Island will be complete without a hike up to the Sunrise Peak.  

We give ourselves ample time to hike to the top. There are two hiking trails available. One trail leads uphill while the other path is downhill.   

Hiking up to Seongsan Ilchulbong is not hard. Usually, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk up to the Sunrise Peak without taking a rest. We took exactly 20 minutes and get a front view to sit and wait for the sunrise.  

We then return to our house shortly after that and get our quick shower before heading for our second location; Seopjikoji. This coast located at the end of the eastern shore of Jeju Island. What makes Seopjikoji different from any other coast in Jeju Island is because this coast is made of red volcanic ash and possesses strange rock formations which are very unique.   

The entrance for this place is totally free and the activities that you can do here is to walk along the coast while viewing the nice view Seopjikoji could offer you. The walk along the coast is easy and with the nice view surround you, most probably you will never realize how far you already walk and how fast the time passes by.   

Our next stop is at Jeju Folk Village Museum. Here is the place for visitors to learn and explore more about Jeju’s traditions and culture. There are over 100 houses and facilities that were once actual residences are being displayed here.   

The Jeju Folk Village Museum displays scenes of Jeju’s village from the year of the 1890s. This place is so huge covering a 4500 – hectares site holding places like mountain village, fishing village, botanical garden, market place and old government building and also an authentic shamanistic rite.   

With over 8,000 pieces of folk articles explaining things such as household equipment, farming instruments, fishing tools, furniture, and earthenwares; we learn so many things about Jeju’s past.

Our last stop for the day is to Loveland. This place opens from 09:00 am until 12:00 am so it’s best to place Loveland to be visited last since you could visit this place even late at night.  

Jeju Loveland is a theme sculpture park based on sensuality and erotism. It took 30 to 40 minutes to look around the park. This park holds around 140 sculptures and it’s a piece of land art. Although Jeju Loveland always being associate as a site for couples, but for us, it is also best for a group of friends going together and experience the art, unlike the others.   

Soon after that, we end our day by enjoying our dinner and ready to get our rest.  

vii) Day 6 – Farewell Jeju Island  

As today is our last day in Jeju, all of us spend our morning just enjoying the lake view in front of our cabin house while enjoying our breakfast.  

We head to the airport later in the afternoon to get ready for our flight in the evening. And before that, we need to return our rental car at Lotte Rent – a – car. The returning process is such a breeze. They only ask about the car keys without any other questions asked.  

Our last moments in Jeju are filled with our flashback on how good Jeju treats us and all the memories will surely stick to our mind until the rest of our life. 

My Sweet Adventure in Sydney, Australia

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My trip to visit Sydney was wonderful and full with sweet memories.   

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and among Australia’s largest cities. It is a great city to explore since this city surrounded by the glorious harbor and beaches which means a lot of activities await you to keep you entertain all day long.  

My trip to Sydney starts with my initial preparation before arriving there. As a Malaysian, applying a Visa is a must before entering Australia. Luckily for us, applying Visa is so simple thanks to the Immigration of Australia. Just fill in your details in their immigration website, pay $AUD10 and you are done. They will process your application in 24 hours and you will get an email notification when it is done. It is so simple and efficient which create so much convenient towards tourists.

With Visa and flight ticket in hand, I flew to Sydney from Kuala Lumpur which takes approximately 6 hours. Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is known as one of the strict airports in the universe.

They took their job seriously and you must not take lightly about this. Australia have a strict rule about getting in foods into their country. Some food you cannot bring into Australia is like any kind of processed meat and any dairy products. If you still intend to bring it, they must be commercially prepared and packaged. You can also still bring food like a biscuit and bread but all of it it must be declared before you arrive.  

I arrive at Sydney around 10pm. In order to save budget, usually what I do is to stay overnight at the airport and start my adventure to Sydney early in the morning. I learned it the hard way though. As I busy planning my plan and itinerary inside the airport, I’ve been chased out by their security guard. Only then I knew they have a curfew and close the airport completely after 11pm until 6am. They laid out this regulation and you can read it here.  

Puzzled by the scene, I searched out if there is any alternative available since it’s already past midnight. Lucky for me as I found a group of tourists who are in the same shoes like me. They allow us to stay overnight in the airport with these conditions;  

  • You have a boarding pass for your next flight.  
  • You can stay at designated waiting area pre-Security in International Terminal, near the train station entrance.  

“Unfortunately, this waiting area isn’t comfortable, offers little seating, few power outlets, and a lone vending machine. Expect to rest on the cold hard floor, so bring something soft and extra layers to combat the chilly temperature.”   

Sleep in Airports

And with this, my sweet adventure to Sydney begins.  

i) A day trip to Blue Mountain  

Going around to explore Sydney is much easier when you book a travel tour. They provide transportation, food and convenience towards tourists. All you have to do is to search the best travel agent with good reviews and suit with your timing and budget.   

If you search for them, there will be a lot of suggestions they will give you. Among activities they could provide when you are in Sydney is;  

  • Hunter Valley Tour  
  • Sydney City Tour  
  • Jenolan Caves Tour  

Having the most reviewed activities that tourists did when visiting Sydney, I finally choose to do Blue Mountains day tour. I do this activity with Sightseeing Tours as they offer the best price which is at only $AUD85. Booking a tour with them is also easy. Just fill in your information and your pickup location and you are done.   

The tour starts when they pick us up at the hotel. Our first stop of the day is to see Wentworth Falls. Here, we need to walk a little before we arrive at the said location. The second stop will be at Leura, a village brimming with boutiques and quaint eateries. One of the local restaurants has a Kangaroo Burger on its menu. And for the sake of tasting how kangaroo tastes like, I ordered one.   

Afterwards, it’s on to Katoomba, which sits in the heart of the Blue Mountains. This town marks the gateway to the two of the region’s most popular attractions. Our first activity is to head to the Three Sisters rock formation, where we learn about the Aboriginal myths and legends.   

We’ll then move on to the Scenic World, where we hop aboard the Skyway, Australia’s highest cable car, the Cableway, the Railway, the steepest incline passenger railway in the world and also the Walkway, the longest boardwalk in the Australia. These rides provide us with a stunning expanse of the Blue Mountains below.  

Before return to Sydney, we manage to take several pictures at Govetts Leap which possibly have one of the most breathtaking views within the entire region.   

We then conclude our day with a trip up Sydney Harbour, unwinding on an afternoon cruise along the Paramatta River back to Circular Quay city centre.   

ii) Whale Watching  

Each year thousands of Humpback Whales migrate along the East coast of Australia. They migrate from their summer feeding grounds in Antartica to their breeding grounds in Queensland’s Coral Sea. This brings them past Sydney during the months of May, June, July and August. Hence, a lot of tourists and locals did not want to miss this opportunity and making this as everyone’s must-do list.  

For this activity, we book this experience with Adrenaline Tour. Once your booking is confirmed, they will send you an email giving you full instructions where to meet up and your booking confirmation.   

This 3 ½ hour Whale Watching cruises depart from Darling Harbour and pass many of Sydney’s famous landmarks along the way. The cruise will take us past Luna Park, the Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House, Kirribilli House, Fort Dennison, Bradley’s Head and the waterfront mansions of Point Piper. Once the cruise out past Sydney Heads, the fun begins as they will start to search for the wonderful Humpback Whales migrating past.   

iii) Bondi Beach  

Perhaps the most rated beach in Sydney will be Bondi Beach. When you arrive here, you will definitely know why it is so popular. The white sands, the blue seas will make you fall in love with this place. However, I find it as crowded especially during the weekend.   

Getting here is easy too. There are a lot of buses or taxis you can take as it is not too far from the city centre. So, when you are in Sydney, please check this place out.  

iv) Kangaroos & Koalas  

Since both animals only can be found in Australia, it will be a silly move to not watch this cute animal right in front of your eyes. There are several options you can choose if you want to meet them. In Sydney, the most popular zoo you can go to is; Taronga, Featherdale Park or Wildlife Sydney Zoo. You can choose which one suits your taste and preference by reading up the reviews for these zoos here.   

Sapa, Hanoi: A Commercialized Trekking

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Sapa is a perfect destination for those who want to have a break from the city and have an adventure surrounded by the mountain view and breezy weather.   

Sapa is located at Hanoi, Vietnam and known for its breathtaking hill stations and colourful tribal cultures. This town as we know as Sapa today was originally founded by the French at the beginning of 20th century. This place offers you a stunning mountain landscapes, verdant rice terraces, unique villagers and not to forget the Indochina peak, Fansipan.   

For my trip to Hanoi, I give Sapa a visit based on tourist recommendations and positive reviews that I read. Since I have limited time in Hanoi, what I did is to hire a travel agent to manage all my trip from Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi to Sapa for 3 days and 2 nights and transport back to Noi Bai International Airport.    

And since I landed early around 10 am in Hanoi, I have approximately 12 hours to walk around Hanoi city and explore to see what it can offer before taking a bus to Sapa. With 12 hours left, we manage to do this;  

  • Taste a bit of Vietnam by trying their famous food; Pho.  
  • Visit Hoan Kiem Lake  
  • Watch the Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Water Theatre.  
  • Walk around at the Old Quarters and see The Ancient House and St Joseph Cathedral.  

Later at around 10 pm, we are ready to take a sleeping bus from Hanoi which will take us to Sapa for around 6 hours.   

Booking a tour or do-it-yourself?  

There are several options you have based on what vacation you want to have in mind;  

  • Travel with the travel agent who will manage all your need during your stay. For three days of trekking and two nights in a hotel, the lowest price someone quoted me without bargaining was $USD90 including a sleeper bus to and from Sapa. The highest price was $USD120. It will include food and drinks with three breakfast, three lunches and two dinners.  
  • Travel by yourself. Planning your own trip to Sapa is very doable. There are a daily bus and train you can book it by yourself. When you arrive in Sapa, there will be locals waiting for you to offer their homestay or hotels and also to arrange you with any activities you preferred to do.   

How to get to Sapa?  

Getting to Sapa from Hanoi is definitely an easy task. The fastest route and most practical option are by bus. With the opening of the Noi Bai—Lao Cai Expressway, the travel time will take approximately 6 hours, less than the train journey which takes 8 hours.   

As for my opinion, a road is such a convenient option as there are multiple sleeper buses and vans you can choose from morning till night. Plus, passengers will be picked up in several picked-up locations in Hanoi and you will be dropped directly to your hotel in Sapa.   

You can book online bus tickets using this link. And if you prefer to take a train, you definitely can do so by using this link.   

Day 1  

Fansipan Mountain  

The first day we arrive in Sapa, we went to Fansipan mountain. Fansipan mountain is one of the most famous checkpoints in Sapa. If you are lucky enough, you can reach the top on a sunny day and enjoy the views of Sapa’s mountains, clouds and villages downhill from over 3,143 meters above.   

Back in the day, climbers required to have at least two days to conquer Fansipan’s peak. While nowadays, you can reach the top by taking a cable car that reaches to the top within a few minutes.   

We visit Fansipan by taking a two—way cable car to the peak. The price per person will be VND 700,000 and additional VND 100,000 for the tram ticket. If you want to avoid paying for the additional VND 100,000, you definitely can do so by climbing 600 stairs to reach the peak.   

During our visit to Fansipan, the weather at the peak is not on our side. It is raining heavily added with a strong wind which hinders our view. Even though the weather is not good, we still able to climb up to the peak. We were unable to take any good picture at the peak but the experience we get to reach the peak of Fansipan is still worth it.   

Half-day trekking at Cat Cat Village  

After seeing Fansipan in the morning, our next plan for the evening is to do half—day trekking at Cat Cat Village. Cat Cat is a small village at the foot of Fansipan Mountain. To me, it is only a stroll rather than a trek. This trip provides an excellent overview of the countryside surrounding Sapa. This trekking route is definitely easy and still acceptable for all tourists who came to Sapa. There is an old village of Black Hmong where you can discover many interesting facts about their real life and their culture.   

Cat Cat Village is also a perfect place where you can see traditional clothing being made, women weaving colourful handcraft and hemp being dyed. Along the way, you can see locals selling their hand—made merchandise for you to buy.   

After visiting Cat Cat Village, our next destination will be to Sin Chai. The trek will follow the Muong Hoa Valley through rice terraces and small houses. Sin Chai is a village of the Red Dhao ethnic, where their women wear embroidered clothes with silver jewellery and an enormous red turban.   

Another selling point for Sin Chai Village is that the locals here will take time to teach textile weaving and dyeing to visitors and their unique village is something you need to see with yourself. After finish the tour in Sin Chai Village, our transport takes us back to our hotel in Sapa.   

Day 2  

Full-day trekking to Lao Chai and Ta Van Village  

The next day, we do full-day trekking to Lao Chai and Ta Van Village. Here, we get the chance to see the spectacular mountain scenery and to walk through traditional villages and their rice paddies. During the start of the trek, a group of several ethnic people will start to follow you from the start until you arrive at Ta Van Village. They will most likely to help you along the way if you need any. Apart from that, they will start a small conversation with you to break the ice. The reason they do this is that they want you to like them and finally to help them by buying their merchandise at the end of the trekking.  

The first pit stop is to reach Lao Chai which is the village of Black Hmong ethnic people. We can see their daily life and witness how to make their traditional clothes, handicraft and indigo. Lao Chai Village also offers the best view of the rice terrace field in Vietnam.   

After Lao Chai Village, our next stop is Ta Van Village, a village of Giay people. It is a small group of ethnic people living in Vietnam but still preserves their rich and traditional culture. During this stop, they serve us with a delicious lunch with a local family here in one of their beautiful houses located on their rice paddy fields.   

Our tour end with a ride back to our hotels later in the evening.   

Day 3  

After having a full day trekking, getting a whole night to rest is definitely necessary. We woke up early today to get our breakfast and then we packed our things to check out before taking our sleeping bus back to Noi Bai International Airport.   

Of Peace & Serenity; Krabi

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A lot of misconception by people thinking Krabi is an island. It is not, people. Nevertheless, Krabi is the perfect place if you wanted to clear off your mind from your work or from your hectic city.

I wanted to share you all the stuff that makes Krabi so famous so the next time you visit Krabi, you can straight away try it.

Beach

Krabi have 2 famous beaches you can stay. Both is almost the same. Ao Nang is the main tourist attractions and Railay beach is its sister and has an island feel. It is entirely up to your preference on which beach you like to stay. Or if you prefer to stay at both places why not spend one night in Ao Nang and another night at Railay Beach?

Railay Beach

Activities

For this part I will enlist all the top activities you can try when you are in Krabi;

i) Phi Phi Island tour

If you are visiting Krabi for the first time, Phi Phi island tour is a must place for you to go. This island is the most visited place for tourists when they come to visit Krabi or Phuket. Mostly when you come here, you can either spend a night on this island or just to take a one-day tour to this island. Most of the time, the place you will cover when doing Phi Phi Island tour is like sightseeing, swimming or snorkeling at Maya Bay, Loh Samah Bay, Pileh Cove, Viking Cave, and Monkey Beach.

Phi Phi Island

ii) Krabi Island tour

Krabi surrounded by many small islands and it is not surprising to see tours offering various kind of island hopping around Krabi. An example of island tour you could take is like Krabi 4 island tour, Koh Hong day tour, James Bond island tour and Krabi 7 island sunset tour.

I still remember ended up taking Krabi 7 island sunset tour. Well, it is not 7 islands but instead of 7 places. The whole package is good since you could go to lots of places in one day. However, the activities in each place rushed as you need to cover 7 places. The time allocated in each place is only around 30 minutes only.

The highlight of the activity is when after getting our dinner, they will bring you to the middle of the sea to see bioluminescent plankton. The light of the boat will be switched off and we are at total darkness. Then they told us to snorkel around the boat surrounded by darkness. At first, I hesitate to jump out of the boat as it is pitch black out there. But the moment I entering the water, I could see the light of the plankton. It is quite a nice scene to see.

iii) Emerald Pool & Hot Springs

If you want something that is not related to the beach, you can definitely try to soak yourself at the famous emerald pool in Krabi. This emerald pool can be found if you go to the Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve. If you are not taking a tour and decide to drive, you need to pay THB200 at the entrance for both hot springs and the emerald pool.

In order to reach the emerald pool, you need to walk for around 20 minutes from the entrance to the pool. On your way to the emerald pool, you will witness a hot spring available for you to soak yourself into. At the emerald pool, you also could swim over there and enjoy the scenery. And if you walk for another 20 minutes further up from the emerald pool, you can enjoy seeing the blue pool. This place is unfortunately not open for swimming and only for taking pictures.

Emerald Pool
Blue Pool

If you wanted to experience something else, there are tons of activities you can do. Some of them are rock climbing, riding ATV, kayaking, riding a horse along a beach and many more.

There are like over 50+ activities you could do in Krabi. All of it you can mix and match based on what your budget and your time. There is a lot of a travel agent setting up a booth along Ao Nang and Railay beach. Just walk a few of them and search for the best price. They will bargain the price since the competition is high among them. If you found the best deal, grab it and make a booking. Whether you like it or not, I believe if you want to do any activities here in Krabi, it will always a better choice to pick a travel agent as they really control the majority of activities in Krabi. But there is always an alternative if you want to do it yourself without hiring any travel agent. This is entirely up to you to make up the choices.  

Banana Pancake

I read a lot of bloggers who recommend trying banana pancake in Krabi. To me honestly, I cannot find why it is so famous and craving by so many people. I detest none of the Thai food, in fact, I love them! I bet there are many other Thai foods in Krabi that is better and taste good. But for me banana pancake is like the normal ‘roti canai’ that I could find back in my town; Kuala Lumpur which is cheaper and taste exactly the same. One banana pancake in Krabi cost almost THB50 (USD1.5) based on what flavor you want to add while in Kuala Lumpur you can get the same pancake with only THB20 (USD 0.5).

Banana ‘Roti Canai’ Malaysia version
Fried Banana Pancake Krabi version

The resemblance is uncanny, isn’t it? Okay. Enough ranting about this pancake. My advice just does not skip this signature food in Krabi. Try this banana pancake once to taste it. If you like it, good, buy another one. But, if you did not like it, then you can try other Thai food like Pad Thai or Mango Sticky Rice which are way better.

Pubs & Bars

Unlike its neighbor, Phuket which has its famous Bangla Road where most people spend their nightlife by either partying and drinking until morning surrounded by a loud noise and crowded people. Here in Krabi, such night is rare to be seen. Krabi is a much quieter town with not so much entertainment available at night. For me, its good news. After spending a whole day snorkeling, swimming or doing island hopping for the whole day; what would be more relaxing other than chilling at the bar drinking and feasting your ears with good music.  

Krabi is crawling with pubs and bars. Almost every corner has one. You need to search for which one that suits your taste and preferences and pay them a visit. They will surely welcome you with an open heart.

And so, Krabi is really a perfect place for you to go if you want to take your mind off and to take your body to rest. Enjoy every moment you spend in Krabi and have fun with it. 

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