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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.   

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.   

Escape the Ordinary; Nusa Penida, Bali

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When you ask about Bali; Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud, and Tanah Lot are among the ordinary places people will recommend you to visit. Little that you know, Bali actually hides a gem you could explore to uncover the true beauty of it. The gem that I’m talking about is Nusa Penida.

This island located southeast of Bali that includes the neighboring small islands; Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Nusa Penida covers a wide area for snorkeling and diving locations together with several spots that can be considered as Insta-worthy. 

How to get to Nusa Penida 

The only option available to get to Nusa Penida is to hop on a speedboat from Sanur Beach. From here you have several options available; 

  • Book your ticket online via this link. Please be mindful that booking must be done one day before departure.
  • Grab your ticket manually at their counter. I highly recommend you to come as early as you can to secure your ticket to Nusa Penida. 
  • Book a travel agent to take care all your trip to Nusa Penida (more about this later). 

One-way trip cost you around IDR 300,000 and the journey will take approximately 30 minutes. Upon your arrival at Nusa Penida, you will be greeted by locals who will offer you to rent their car or motorbike or even to offer you the best price for their tour packages.  

Booking Nusa Penida tour or do it on your own? 

Start from here, it is all up to your taste on which way you want to continue your adventure at Nusa Penida.  

  • You can rent a motorbike or car to explore Nusa Penida. But please be careful when you drive as the road could be treacherous. Most of the road is not properly built and maintain. A signboard is scarce and you will heavily rely on your Google Maps and internet connection. 
  • Book a travel agent that can offer a wide range of activities available. 

Based on my experience visiting Nusa Penida, I highly recommended you to book a tour as I find this alternative is the best option available in order for you to experience the full blast of what Nusa Penida can offer. Oh! Let me be honest and tell you that one-day tour in Nusa Penida is definitely not enough to cover all the famous spots. What considered being sufficient is to book two days tours that include sightseeing and snorkeling around Nusa Penida.  

Booking a Nusa Penida tour is easy since you can spot them offering their services on the internet and some even open a tour booth around Bali. All you have to do is to do some research to find the best tour that fit your taste, budget, and timing. As for me, I book my two days tours from Go Explore Nusa Penida website. This tour gives the price depending on how big your group is (as I’m traveling in two, the price per person is IDR 1,250,000) and their two days tours cover pretty much everything together with food, transportation, and accommodation. 

The Activities: Day 1 

i) Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach 

Right after when we reach Nusa Penida, the tour agent welcomes us. He will be the one to guide us around in an air—conditioning mini MPV. Our first destination to go is Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach. As this place is located next to each other, you will kill two birds with one stone.  

Angel’s Billabong is a beautiful natural rock pool. To get the best shot here really depend on the weather, the tides and your luck. I am definitely not lucky on that day since it is raining season in Nusa Penida, hence the pool definitely not clear and looks muddy. 

A few steps ahead from Angel’s Billabong, you will arrive at Broken Beach; an arched tunnel in the cliffs. You can’t climb down to the Broken Beach since there are no accessible routes to go there unless you are taking a boat and make your way in through the arched tunnel.  

ii) Paluang Cliff 

Our next destination is at Paluang Cliff. This cliff is actually located at the backside of Kelingking Beach. There is no barrier whatsoever near the cliff. Whenever you wish to take a picture, please watch your steps. The view here is spectacular as you are particularly standing at the edge of the cliff and you can watch the blue ocean as far as your eyes can see. 

iii) Kelingking Beach 

I can bet you this is the most famous spot to go based on its popularity on social media. Even if you Google an image of Nusa Penida, the picture of Kelingking Beach will keep popping up on your search results. It is easy to see the reason behind it. It’s so stunning, right? 

Did you notice the white beach surrounded by azure seas at the bottom of it?  

In Kelingking Beach, it is possible to descend there. However, the path is not safe. Some path is too steep, narrow and broken. If you still decide to go all the way down, please be extra cautious and patient at the same time as there are many others who will try to go up or down using the same path.  

iv) Crystal Bay Beach 

Crystal Bay Beach is a beautiful beach surrounded by clear water. This location is getting a lot of attention because it is one of the best sites to snorkel or dive around Nusa Penida. Having a wide 200—meters stretches of sand in the secluded area, this is a commonplace to relax and to have a piece of your mind.  

We end our first-day tour by relaxing and swimming at Crystal Bay Beach before we finally get our rest and to continue our adventure tomorrow morning. 

The Activities: Day 2 

i) Rumah Pohon 

After having a full rest with a delightful breakfast, we are ready to start our day in Nusa Penida. Our guide picks us up to bring us to Rumah Pohon.  

Rumah Pohon has a total number of three treehouses inside its area. In order to get here, you need to walk a long way down to the Rumah Pohon. The view is absolutely breathtaking and seeing this place will make you want to live here forever. However, I definitely have a mixed feeling regarding this Rumah Pohon or also called Tree House.  

The way the owner operates his business spoils the experience when people come and visit Tree House. This Tree House operates with two different ways at the same time; 

  • Tree House is open to being visited with a fee of IDR 10,000 per person. 
  • You can book and stay at one of the treehouses for IDR 500,000 per night. 

Here is where the contradiction begins. When you come and pay the fee to visit Tree House, all you want is to snap a picture while exploring their beautiful treehouses. However, you will definitely be shocked to see there is actually someone live inside the houses. On the other hand, if you booked to stay at the Tree House, you will definitely have zero privacy. People who come to visit Tree House will climb up your house and annoyed the hell out of you.  

ii) Pulau Seribu / Raja Lima 

After a few stairs up from the Tree House, you will arrive at Raja Lima. The viewpoint you see here is what they call as Pulau Seribu or Thousand Island Viewpoint.  

iii) Diamond Beach 

Diamond Beach is among one of the most amazing beaches I have ever been to. It is located on the most eastern point of Nusa Penida. The beach is not accessible before until recently it is open to the public when they carved a limestone making a stair heading down to the Diamond Beach.  

The route going down to the Diamond Beach is better than the path you find in Kelingking Beach since it is safer and secure.  

iv)  Snorkeling (3 locations) 

Our next destination is to go back to the first place where we drop off at Nusa Penida. But wait, we are not heading back to Sanur Beach yet. The plan to get here is to take a private boat so we could continue our next activity; snorkeling. Nusa Penida has five best spots for snorkeling which is; Crystal Bay Beach, Gamat Bay Beach, Wall Point, Buddha Temple, and Manta Point. Our tour allows us to choose a maximum of three spots for our snorkeling activity. 

We could not choose Manta Point since the minimum number to do this is five people. Since there is only two of us, Manta Point is out of the option. Our next option to go to Buddha Temple but our guide told us this spot is currently under maintenance during our visit. Hence, we are left to pick these three locations which are; Crystal Bay Beach, Gamat Bay Beach and Wall Point. 

Snorkeling will be the last activities we did for our tour to Nusa Penida which marks the end for our unordinary trip to Bali. Our tour agent bid us farewell as we take the last boat from the harbor to Sanur Beach before we heading back to Bali.

Manila’s Sister; Cebu

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Cebu is the second largest city after Manila. It is one of Philippine’s province in Central Visayas with its capital city known as Cebu City. In 2015, it is recorded that Cebu City has a total population of 922,611 which make it to always have a problem with traffic jams and congestion; although it is not as bad as in Manila.

In 2018, Cebu has received approximately 6.9 million tourists all around the world which makes Cebu is one of tourist attraction in Philippine. Traveling across Cebu is easy as public transportation like buses and taxis are readily available and fairly cheap. Communicating with the locals is troubled free as most of them can speak in English. During my visit there, I lost my way in Cebu City and ask for help from the locals. They generously help me since we do not have communication barrier at all.

Cebu is known with its insane adrenaline pumping canyoneering at Kawasan Falls and adventurous swimming with the whale shark. In this post, I will explain in details regarding these two main activities so you will get the ideas why these two things are must do activities when you visit Cebu.

i) Canyoneering Kawasan Falls

A turquoise river flowing right before your eyes. Kawasan Falls is one of the famous waterfalls in the world. This is truly a beautiful place to visit with its three-layered waterfall system. The water is crystal clear and fresh. Added with its landscape and environment truly make this waterfall as an ideal paradise to anyone who loves to have an intimate time with nature.

  • How to get here

A few routes are available depending on where you are from. Kawasan Falls is located in Badian and the easiest and cheapest route is to travel by bus. Taxis are also available but it is a little pricey. Motorbike or car also available to be rented but be prepared for a long ride as the distance to travel from one activity to another is far.

Or else, if you want a hassle-free trip, you could book a travel agency which can give you full tour packages with an option of 1-day tour up to 3 days/2 nights tour around Cebu.

  • How much to spend

Around the area in Badian, there are a lot of tour companies you can find that offer canyoneering activity in Kawasan Falls. The price you should expect to pay to them will be around $USD30–$USD40 per person. But it is highly advisable for you to book in advance and look at the reviews for these tour companies so you will get a better expectation for what you are paying them.

  • The activities

If the activity like canyoneering in Kawasan Falls is not your cup of tea, you could also just go straight to see Kawasan Falls by paying small entrance fees. But it is more rewarding for you to finish the full course of canyoneering and which finally end at Kawasan Falls. This experience is far more amazing and satisfying. 

The canyoneering adventure started with a small walk down a jungle path as you will follow your guide. Lifejacket, anti-slip shoes, and helmet will be provided to you for this activity for safety purposes. However, if you are a good swimmer, you can request to go without lifejacket and helmet.

Your first jump of the day is fairly easy with only a few feet falls. Your guide will be there to guide you to show where is the safest spot to jump and properly do it. My guide on that day is sensible and patient and guide us in every way he can. There are a few mandatory jumps but most of the big jump can be avoided if you choose not to do it.  

Along the way, you will see foods and drinks sold by locals halfway through the adventure. Hence, it would be smart to bring spare money so you will get a drink and some snack to recharge your energy.

At one point, you will encounter one huge dam wall, a rope swing and a man-made water slide that you can enjoy before moving on. I spent quite a long time here repeating the slide and rope swing until I satisfied before we continue our journey. The scene here is magical with its amazing setting and I can spend the whole day watching it.  

The last fall will be the longest fall; about 50-feet drop. This jump is the scariest among others. I watched others jump before me and hesitated at first because yes; it is absolutely a huge drop. After my guide encourages me with his pep talk, I decided this was a great way to end this adrenaline-pumping day!  

  • Tips and advise

You need to have a guide. I know some of you wanted to ditch the guide to save a few bucks for this activity, but please, for your own safety hire a guide. You will need to rely on their knowledge for your own good.  

GoPro is your best companion. For this activity, GoPro is a must and definitely no DSLR. You will jump and going on a slippery terrain which might put your DSLR in danger. And do not forget to bring spare batteries too. You will thank me later.  

Do not hesitate when jumping. One of my mistakes when doing the last jump is over-thinking. Luckily my guide is there beside me. His advice is first to look where you want to jump and then on count 1,2 and 3 you have to jump.  

ii) Swimming with whale shark

Swimming with the whale sharks in Cebu has received worldwide recognition and attract tourists to Oslob, Southern Cebu.

Whale Sharks can be seen in a small Barangay Tan-awan, which is 10km away from Oslob. Tourists who arrived in Oslob want to see the whale sharks as well as to snorkel and dive with them.  

  • How to get here

A few routes are available depending on where you are from. The most famous whale shark watching is located in Oslob and the easiest and cheapest route is traveling by bus. Taxis are also available but it is a little pricey. Motorbike or car is also available to be rented but be prepared for a long ride as the distance to travel from one activity to another is far. 

Or else, if you want a hassle-free trip, you could book a travel agency which can give you full tour packages with an option of 1- day tour up to 3 days/2 nights tour around Cebu.

  • How much to spend

Around the area in Oslob, there are a lot of tour companies you can find that offer whale shark watching. The price you should expect to pay to them will be around $USD20–$USD30 per person. This activity is available daily from 6 am to 12 pm only. 

  • Activities available

You could either snorkel with the whale shark or just watching them from the boat. Before you go, however, there is an informative talk and presentation regarding the whale sharks and some rules to be applied during the activity. No feeding, touch, ride or chase the animals. A whale shark is wild animals and come and go as they pleased. You will see floats around the surface which are the mark for motorized boats to stay away; only paddle boats may enter the area. Beside the activity area, there will also a large boat for marine biologists to monitor the water activity.

I enjoy seeing this whale shark up close but there are still a few things that make me disappointed. I respect locals in Oslob as they committed helping tourists to get the best experience to see the whale shark. You can see how dedicated they are controlling the crowd and managing the activity. But I am sad with what I saw; tourists touching the whale sharks, chasing them and the crowd is too overwhelming making monitoring what they do is impossible. All rules are in motion hard to be implemented when tourists are too obsessed for a perfect photo. I really wish that in the future, more tourists would respect the whale shark guidelines and realize what they do can harm them.  

  • Tips and advise

This activity lasts for 30 minutes. The boat will bring you to see the whale shark and when time expires, they will bring you back. Activity will commence by batch. 

Come early. If you wish to avoid the long queue and traffic, arrive as early as possible (the activity
starts at 6 am).  

The Mystical Blue Flame in Surabaya

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Embarking my foot to see the one among two in the whole wide world, ‘volcanic blue flame’ is not that easy as I expected. It all started when I’m searching for the unique thing I could experience in Indonesia. One thing that captured my attention is the blue flame at Mount Ijen which located 266 KM from Surabaya. When I Google and looked at the picture of Mount Ijen and attractions in Surabaya, I immediately hooked to this place. I set my mind and body to visit Surabaya.

And so, for my trip to Surabaya for 4 days 3 nights, my plan is simple. Spend 2 days for Mount Ijen and Mount Bromo and I will spend the rest of my trip at Surabaya. Here is my detailed story on how it all started.

Day 1 

The flight to Surabaya took around 3 hours from Kuala Lumpur. When I safely landed at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, I immediately grab a taxi to take me to Gubeng train station. My plan next is to go to Banyuwangi as this is where Mount Ijen located. Train depart based on its schedule so plan your time accordingly. The trains are mainly used by the locals as this is the cheapest and the easiest mean of transportation. Expect a crowd of people. To avoid a problem, book ahead your ticket from Gubeng Station to Banyuwangi Baru Station. Oh! Did I already mention you that this will take around 8 hours? Along the journey, the train’s crew will occasionally sell drinks and hot cup noodles if you are thirsty or hungry. Although it took a long way, I still found it interesting. Being able to communicate with the locals, understanding their way of life and how humble they are open a different perspective from me towards them as a whole.

Gubeng Train Station in Surabaya

But, if you prefer a different route then this, there will always an alternative option available. The quickest way to Mount Ijen from Surabaya is to take a domestic flight from Juanda International Airport to Banyuwangi International Airport which will take only approximately 50 minutes. 

Leaving from Gubeng Station at 2 pm local times, I arrive at Banyuwangi Baru Station around 9 pm. After having a quick dinner, I check in at a guest house as my hiking to Mount Ijen will start later at 1 am. 

Day 2 

Having a short 2 hours sleep is definitely not enough. But, because the urge to see the blue flame up close in front of my eyes really excite me. I woke up at 12 am to get ready and my guide pick me up at the guest house around 1 am. It took one hour drive to the base of the crater from Banyuwangi and the hike start at around 2 am.

You can buy some refreshment here

All I can say is climbing Kawah Ijen is not an easy hike nor it’s a difficult feat to do. However, some level of fitness is still required. I still remember seeing two or three hikers giving up and forced to return due to lack of stamina. The hardest part is the first hour as the path which is wide but climbs up a steep slope. The last 30 minutes to the top are fairly the easiest as the path is flattened for a smooth trek. However, trek to base of the crater lead another 1 hour can be dangerous as the path down is steep and slippery. We reached the crater rim at 3 am and spent 1 hour descending to base of the crater to see the blue flames. Then, we spent another 1 1/2 hour making our way back up to the crater rim for sunrise at 5.30 am. Along the trek, however, your view will sometimes get hindered by a very dense smoke coming from the active volcanic activities.  

The most gruesome part was the long descent and ascent from the crater rim to the base of the crater. There will be a flock of tourists plus local’s sulfur miners who will use the path to the base of the crater and so, please go slow and watch for your steps. Safely arrive at the base of the crater, well, did I see the blue flame? During my visit there, the sulfur smoke is dense and the whole blue flame is not as what I expected to be. I’m having a real hard time to capture it on camera although I knew the flame was definitely there. At some times, the blue fire would emerge out from the dense smoke and that is the only time I can see it. Feeling exhausted from the climb and the dense smoke, I climb up to the crater rim and take a nap.

Crater rim
Blue flame in Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater)

As the sun rose above the horizon, the sky transformed the whole view from pitch black into a glimpse of heaven. It is one of the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.  

Sunrise at Mount ijen

We went down around 7.30 am and my next plan is to go to Mount Bromo. But first, I will need to reach Probolinggo. Luckily there are several trains from Banyuwangi to Probolinggo which will take approximately 5 hours. I caught a train at 9 am and arrive at Probolinggo at around 2 pm. From there, I took a small minivan called Bemo to bring me up to Cemoro Lawang, the base town for Mount Bromo. I successfully reached Cemoro Lawang on the same day, allowing myself to rest a little overnight before another sunrise climb to Mount Bromo.   

Day 3 

Mount Bromo is a 2300-meter high volcano and the most famous volcanoes in Indonesia. The number of tourists that came here every year proves this point. To see a sunrise in Mount Bromo is fairly easy compared to Mount Ijen as there are a lot of tours offering their package for you.

The best viewpoints to see sunrise are on Gunung Penanjakan. The tour guide that I hired will bring me to the viewpoints via a jeep. From there, I need to climb a staircase for 15 minutes and experience a magical sunrise over Mount Bromo.   

The crowd in Gunung Penanjakan
Sunrise at Mount Bromo

After sunrise, I prepared the drive down towards the Bromo crater. There will be many jeeps around here and traffic jams are common so the drive down can take quite some time. The jeep will take me to the foot of Mount Bromo. To get to the actual crater, I have to walk 15 minutes crossing the ‘sea of sand’. From here you also have an option to either hire a horse for this small walk.

‘Sea of sand’

The crowds who take the stairs to view the crater was insane. Another 10 minutes’ climb up the stairs and I’m already on the top to admire the crater. Every minute, there will be a white smoke spews out from the volcanic crater.  

Mount Bromo crater

After the wonderful scenic view in Mount Bromo, my next stop is going to Surabaya since I have a flight first thing in the morning. My tour guide is kind enough to drop me at Probolinggo train station (with additional fees). From there I took a train from Probolinggo station to Surabaya station which took around 2 hours’ journey. I arrived at Surabaya around 3 pm and check in at the nearby hotel.

I have an ample time to go around Surabaya to see what it offers. Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta. And with that, this city will be packed with a traffic jam here and there. It is the most important parts of Indonesia historically and there is quite a range of interesting attractions that make it all worth it to spend time here. One more thing is Surabaya is actually a port and with that in mind you can enjoy seeing vistas across the water or walking along the waterfront.  

I finish wandering the city and took a rest before flight tomorrow back to Kuala Lumpur.

Day 4 

Going back to Kuala Lumpur always make me glad to have this trip. It is quite tiring, but it feels worth it. To learn something new and valuable will make me wiser even for an inch. Thank you and goodbye Surabaya. .

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