Chao Lao Beach: the hidden spot surrounded by pink rocks

Dear readers,

back to December 2021, I had the opportunity to come back to Thailand to visit some new secluded areas. My focus was on the eastern coast toward Cambodia, after having visited Pattaya and Rayong, I decided (as always) to get out of the ‘comfort zone’ and I headed to Chao Lao beach which is situated in the province of Chanthaburi, you can see the snapshot of the map below:

Overview map above

Unlike the very popular Pattaya city, this is a village where there are lot’s of affordable SPA resorts and now being the post-pandemic time there are very few foreigners (Thai people call them ‘farangs’) getting to this area. I stayed over three days and I did a deep exploration of the surrounding nature. The beach itself is really quiet, cleaned and like the old days, you can have a coconut juice or a lemonade while enjoying the beach, the surrounding sea is shallow which is ideal for families with kids. It is approximately four hours of driving or riding from Bangkok.

The second day that I was there, I decided to rent a motorbike for a further exploration to the very south of peninsula, I entered a national park by paying 200Baths, I parked the bike and I continued hiking to the Pink Stone spot. (See the map below)

The hiking itself is not so difficult and it takes max. half an hour, just you need to have proper shoes or hiking sandals to be safe, and obviously December falls on the dry season so just be prepared to sweat 🙂

Here below there few pictures of the Pink Stone spot:

The most surprising thing of this attraction is a shelter which is built by green glass bottles, I ventured to visited it inside and it looks weird and perhaps a bit scary if you get there at night! If you wish to learn more about the mysterious shelter, I have made a video-reportage by my action camera in which I lively visited it inside 🙂 Here below I have embedded the YouTube video:

Other than this intriguing shelter, I show you few pictures about the sandy beach of Chao Lao:

Usually, during the morning the sea water laps against part of the beach, however in the afternoon the sea water deflects further out to sea and the beach widens out: the last two pictures were taken in the morning time whereas all the others were taken in the afternoon, the difference is clearly visible 🙂

All in all, Chao Lao is a great compromise between having a rest away from the ‘city-life’ and a good opportunity for a soft-hiking, my guess it is ideal for family with kids and for couples on a romantic gateway. The only cons you may experience is that (if you are picky with the food) here you can’t get more than seafood, and last but not least be careful where you go to eat seafood and what you eat, some BBQ seafood may look tasty but then it might be painy to digest it, that was my case one evening: I got intoxicated by some sea snails which I guess were not properly washed out.

That being said, enjoy your experience in Chao Lao beach!

PLAYA ESCONDIDA: a secluded and almost inaccessible beach of Dominican Republic

Dear readers,

I am just back from having discovered Dominican Republic with its pros and cons: the first approach was very tough especially when it comes to dealing with the public safety and cleanliness. Before starting my tour I decided to rent a vehicle instead (I usually rent a motorbike), however this time nobody in the capital city Santo Domingo rented one due to the high volume of daily road accidents so I gave it up. One of the stops in my itinerary was Playa Escondida which means Hidden beach. This beach is situated approximately 3.4km away from the municipality of Las Terrenas.

There are theoretically three ways to get to Playa Escondida:

  1. By trekking through a wooded jungle trail with a muddy swamp in-between (the hardest and dangerous one)
  2. By trekking around the hilly landscape from a gate (if it’s open)
  3. By a boat from Las Terrenas beach on the other side (the safe way)

On top of that, my recommendation is to get as close as the Sailing Club which I highlighted in the snapshot of the map below. Here you can park your car or motorbike since by the area with limited access is not allowed to park.

Because I am a stubborn I went for the hardest choice and while I was starting to figure out how to get through, I met a Czech guy on the way (Martin) with a female friend, they were trying to figuring out and achieve the same goal as I was, after a short introduction we spontaneously took the challenge together, and here we run in to the first incognita:

After walking up to calle Loma Bonita we end up at VILLA CACIQUE OCEAN VIEW with a closed gate and we asked ourselves: what now?

We thought that the beach was only privately accessible from the villa and therefore we tried to talk to some rangers working at the Villa, they said that there was no access and the only way to get there is to override a boundary wall, hike down through the bushes and get through a muddy swamp. The Czech guy and I were eager to start off whereas the female fiend of his NOT. That said one of the rangers offered to us his help by cutting off some bushes on the way, I started hiking down until we get at the edge of the swamp and here the big fun came: the swamp was like a 10-metres gap between the wonderful beach and the jungle, however we couldn’t hike by any means straight through because we would have dived down at the first badass muddy watered spot.

I happened to put my left foot in such a invisible muddy spot and it was very scary since I had to try hard to release it, fortunately the ranger was nearby and rescued me immediately with his hand.

Here below there is a picture of the high bushes very close to the swamps

Meanwhile the Czech guy came down to the edge of the swamp with my backpack 🙂 We gave him the full awareness of the big danger to overcome in-between, to make it short we managed to find out a convoluted zig-zag path to minimize the big risk of diving down with the legs, it took us nearly one hour but it was truly rewarding! The rangers were with us and let us enjoy the most of it by cutting two coconuts from the palm tree so that we could have more liquids in our roaring stomachs 😀

Here below a stunning scenery of Playa Escondida and myself captured drinking the coconut:

While being on the beach I took the advantage of having some squat exercise to support the leg muscles, this is an exercise which I recommend it to everybody adult like me to do it on daily basis.

To sum it up, when you lie the beach you may be feeling in a small paradise which is the ideal to be there for a romantic and exotic day with a girlfriend 🙂 I strongly recommend of getting there by boat, or if you really have to hike, never go alone, always keep in mind that you can not be the best expert of the local nature :O Hike through the swamps is an hellish experience, let’s be wise with our life, so just have ranger with you who knows how it is the situation. Last but not least, I did it during the beginning of the dry season, during the wet season it would be a sort of mission IMPOSSIBLE to get across. For your reference the dry season in Dominican Republic is usually from November through March.

Having said that, enjoy the trip with precautions!

Giuseppe

Patterns of Journey for travelers who likes the ‘sense-of-discovering’

Dear readers,

since the COVID-19 outbreak started off, most of the ordinary businesses for the tourist industry were forced to disrupt its activities, now after three months of such a pandemic outbreak, each Country of the globe is considering to re-open some activities by categorizing it into a number of phases, however so far nobody knows whether the corona virus will be defeated any time soon.

Let’s assume we will get soon over the ‘COVID-19‘ tunnel, for our future travelling challenges we may want to consider a new pattern of exploring journey which puts us out of the so-called ‘comfort-zone’ 🙂 For instance: during one of my past travels I met a Swedish guy “Tariq” who ventured to travel all the way from Sweden to Malaysia by a cross-trail bicycle, it took him approximately nine months to get through by taking several stops in many Countries in-between, even it may sound extreme this is a great example of an ECO-friendly and riveting globe trotting 😉 of course this choice does not fit everybody, it involves us to have a strong mind-set as well as a very-flexible attitude.

In this regard, we can identify three categories of travelers out of the comfort zone:

  1. Temporary traveller
  2. Medium-long term traveller
  3. Permanent traveler

Let’s pick up the first category which is likely the one concerning most of us:

First of all I would classify as a temporary traveller whoever travels for 30 days maximum, here since we perceive the time-pressure, we are supposed to know what we want get from our short ‘adventure’ by excluding any unnecessary thing as much as possible.

In order to achieve this, we need to set up a structure which helps us to decide what it is for and where we can do this and that, e.g. if we are in for the outdoor sports, then we would be focusing on where and when you could get the most of it, we would be neglecting unrelated activities such as nightlife. Short-term travel might look like over-planned because of the narrow time frame, however if we carefully focus our attention on few activities we can still have a room for some creativity, perhaps some of us may be asking, how can we?

In this regard, I am glad to share with you a draft plan that I prepared before travelling to Vietnam earlier on 2019, I used to make such an itinerary plan for 15 days, so it falls under category 1. (use the bottom horizontal scroll bar to display all the other days)

DAY/StagesFri 26th Apr.Saturday 27th AprSunday 28 AprMon 29 Apr.Tue 30 Apr.Wed 1 MayThu 2 MayFri 3 MaySat 4 MaySun 5 MayMon 6 MayTue 7 MayWed 8 MayThu 9 MayFri 10 MaySat 11 MaySun 12 May
1Regiojet bus Bratislava —-> Vienna airportFlight Bangkok —> Ha Noi 7:45am – 9:35am
by Thai Airways
Check-out at the hostel and morning photo-tour (free improvisation)If Sapa, then the challenge will hopefully be: http://sapaochau.org/sapa-trekking-and-homestay/sapa-trek-and-tour/trekking-tours/off-the-beaten-track-2-day/Off-beten trekking tour part 2Morning arrival at Ha Noi: Stay at Ha Noi or further bus to Cat Ba island?Fulld-day Jungle trekking tour in CatBaFull-day of kayaking around Lan Ha Bay by exploring the floating villagesBus back to Ha Noi, transfer to Hai Pong?
Or 1 more day by chilling in CatBa island?
Back in Ha Noi with a booked accommodationBooked plan to visit Hoi An:
VietJet Internal flight Ha Noi – Da Nang
Full-dive tour around Hoi An, and/or visit to the nearby islands?Ck-out from the Hoi An resort and transfer to the Da Nang airportHa Noi city lifeAs previous dayFinal good-bye dayArrival of inbound flight scheduled at 7:35am Vienna airport
2Flight Vienna – Bangkok 2:35pm – 5:35am (+1day)
by Thai Airways
ETA for Ha Noi: around 11:00am2pm: Bus to Sapa? Or to Cat Ba island? http://greensapabus.com
https://catbaexpress.com/bus-hanoi-to-cat-ba.html
1st full day of off-beaten trekking path tourEnding time: 5pmIf CatBa, then estimated arrival after 11am and check for a last-minute accommodation.Ref. https://www.asiaoutdoors.com.vn/kayak.htmlImprovised soft tours/chilling
time prior to the forthcoming planned flight transfer to middle-Vietnam
Ck-in at a booked resort with poolPhoto-walking, small shopping, chilling at the resort and more.Fly back to Ha Noi. Booked accommodation for the next 3 nihtsPhoto-walking, small shopping, wellness, chilling time, etc.As previous dayAs previous day
PS: need to by a suitcase to carry extra new gadgets bought over the last 3days?
3Ck-in at the booked hostelNo accommodation is bookedas aboveNight bus back to Ha NoiAfternoon time in CatBa:
check and book for jungle trekking tour and for a kayaking trip for the two upcoming days Ref. https://www.asiaoutdoors.com.vn
Trekking ends by 5pm.Kayaking ends by 5pmOverview approaching visit at the city centre of Hoi An UNESCO heritage, full of colorful lights, traditional shops and Cafes.Afternoon time: start of grand-finale with pure improvisation what-to-do and where to goIf so, there are still few hours till 5:30pm to do so 🙂
4Ha Noi overview sightseeing*For Sapa accommodation might be provided by the tour agent http://sapaochau.orgas aboveSleep on the busChlling/sleeping time to get back in a shapeEvening time: (Post-)Sunset photoshooting?One more sunset shooting session?Sunset shooting session in
Ha Noi?
Photoshooting session by the sunset as well as at night5:30pm: deadline to transfet to Ha Noi international airport.
5Get to Sapa O’Chau branch to know details about the off-beaten trek in SapaEvening stroll in Sapa to check the poor ppl villagesSleeping at the planned homestay by the tour agent at half-way of the tourIf stay in Ha Noi, then chilling time and decide what and where-to nextTrekking dayKayaking and evening chil-out around CatBa townChill-out/motorbike tour
(if CatBa)
Photo-walking/chill-outThai Airways flight to Bangkok scheduled at 8:45pm
6Evening chill-out
treno 4/g a sett)
Bratislava –> Vienna airportHa NoiHA Noi –> Sapa? Cat Ba island?Sapa O ChauSapa -> Ha NoiHa Noi? -> CatBa island?CatBa islandCatBa IslandCataba//HaI Pong/Ha NoiHa NoiHa Noi -> Hoi AnHoi An/Islands
nearby
Hoi An -> Ha NoiHa NoiHa NoiHa Noi (final day) – departure back to EU
Ha Noi -> Bangkok -> Vienna
Draft itinerary plan for northern and central Vietnam 2019

It might look cumbersome, however it isn’t 🙂

From this practical example, you might notice several activities which are related to the place you want to explore, i.e. Sapa area is mostly for hiking and trekking, alternatively the town of Sapa offers SPA and other chilling activities, in both cases you may want to include the photography as a hobby 🙂 Besides that, you can break each single single day into sateges, maximum 6 stages would be enough for not making it too cumbersome; some of those stage can be left as a ‘jolly’ so that you would be deciding on the spot about what to go for 🙂

When it comes to the ‘medium-long’ term journey the things are different, we do not need for such an accurate itinerary plan, however we still need to know where we want to go and what we want to do as basic, in this regard I would pick up as example the 37-days journey which I experienced in 2018; here, since my core focus was to enjoy the nature, I came to the decision to dedicate a full month travelling around Indonesia, after that I spent the last 7 days in Kuala Lumpur and then in Singapore, yes just seven days were worthy since the city life was the second concern of my journey 🙂

To be fair, this is a kind of journey which requires some time to make our own research and possibly get inspirations by some locals we meet by chance in our living country, it will help us a lot, for instance, before travelling to Indonesia, I had a chance to meet two indonesian women in my living town, I mentioned them about my travel plan and since I wanted to travel first to Java for 14 days and then move to Sumbawa for just 3 days and finally to Flores for 11 days, they nicely managed to persuade me to cut out 3 days for Sumbawa and I spent three more days in Flores instead.

As a result, I got more than enough time to enjoy a motorbike tour across Flores, if you wish to read more just refer to this article: https://theblogofeggiamp.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/flores-the-conservative-face-of-indonesia-with-surprising-people-on-the-way/

One hint I want to give you is that if you are travelling in a not-so-developed country, you will benefit a lot from renting a motorbike because you will have more space for the improvisation and more chance to discover some unbeaten spots 🙂 For your convenience I have embedded a screenshot about what was the motorbike tour I did on the way to the east (I could just fit 10 stops on it, in fact I did more)

10 Key-stops in Flores

Finally, the permanent journey is something which we know when we start but we don’t know whether or if ever ends, honestly in this kind of journey I can’t be helpful because so far in my life I haven’t experienced one, however my guess is that all we need is just answer the following questions:

  1. What is your mission?
  2. How do you want to be globetrotting?
  3. How do you want to live?
  4. What are your expectations out of it?

If you are able to answer these questions above, it likely means that you are ready to take the challenge! Based on my personal experience with the temporary and medium-long term travel, I venture to say that such a journey should be experienced as a backpacker (at least as you start on it), secondly you shouldn’t plan anything in advance but you’d rather go on the spur of the moment which mean pure improvisation, it should be journey which often (if not always) put ourselves out of the ‘comfort-zone’.

Perhaps before taking such a challenge, it could be advisable to experience a one or two-months journey, however each of us in the world have a different life attitude, so even the one who never traveled in his/her life and is going for the first time might succeed his/her mission and have something meaningful to teach or share with other humans 🙂

Having said that that, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on such three patterns of journey as well as feel free to suggest your ideas 🙂

Giuseppe

MTB riding: the unbeaten labyrinth of the Danube river

Dear readers,

It is time to cover a brand-new topic which is the off-road cycling. Being a passionate cyclist I have grown lots of experiences, especially with off-road cycling! Since I live in Bratislava, perhaps not everybody living in the central Europe knows that along the (long) Danube river we can end up finding multiple paths/diversions of the main Danube, that is the case of the area which is enclosed by Hungary and Slovakia.

Assuming you live in Bratislava and you want to start riding from that point, you have a solely choice to reach the labyrinth of ‘green islands’, ride through the green C path via Petržalka-Rusovce-Čunovo. For your convenience just take a look at the map below for a clear overview 🙂

Overview map of cycling route to Danube islands
Ending route from Dunaremete pier (landmark 4)

For the itinerary details you can either refer to the following link: https://en.mapy.cz/s/3sPxV or just follow out the summarized instructions in English below:

(the explanation from mapy.cz is only provided in Czech language so far)

  1. Ride across the Stary Most (Old bridge)
  2. Take left by following the Green C signs (Eurovelo 6) to Čunovo
  3. Once in Čunovo, you are at the border with Hungary: keep riding straight ahead (do not follow the green track to Rajka any more)
  4. Keep cycling on that raised gravel track for apx. 15km to Dunakiliti
  5. At one point, you will notice on the left side a linking path which gets down on the river forest: there you go!
  6. Once down, you will see a cross trail: take right to Dunaremete pier, or take left if you wish to explore more the Danube labyrinth.
  7. Finally, you have two choices: either you take right from Dunaremete or you ride farther straight for apx. 5km and then you will turn on the right as soon as you see and adjacent trail (you will get to cross two bridges in order to get out of the funny labyrinth of islands).

If the instructions are not meaningful enough no worries, I have attached here few key images for you 🙂

https://goo.gl/maps/hZST6jCiGjPvs1Aj6

As shown above, when you are in Dunakiliti take as a reference Vadviz Kemping to lively enter the Dunasziget (Danube isles).

If until that point you had the feeling to be bored, here the big fun starts! As first, you will meet lots of loitering and running deers. It is just incredible how many of them you can meet along the trail; in addition to that, be aware that there can also be few tiny snakes, I have seen one by riding through and luckily by the time I passed it was already aside, that is a bigger concern for whoever ventures in the trails by hiking.

Here below there are some available images from my recent trip in there.

After apx. 15km of riding in the Danube forest from the camp site, you will approach Dunaremete which is a chilling spot with a small pier, it daily runs few small ferries to carry few cars, bikers and passengers to Gabčíkovo back to the Slovakian territory, this can also be a customizing option for your own trips if you are lucky enough to catch it at the right time!

Thanks to my friend Attila, we made the tour very juicy by arriving at Ásványráró village and from there we decided to ride farther to the connecting bridge back to Medvedov in Slovakia, since we felt we had not better choice and ride back all the way round it would have been boring!

Just few quick facts about the bicycles: we had ridden with a Giant MTB Talon 1 27.5″ myself whereas my friend was provided with Trek cross-trail bike, the second one is enough to deal with such a trail as long as it is dry, perhaps when it is muddy then MTB tires are more effective! I do not recommend to enjoy such a forest trail with a race bike unless you want to damage it on a purpose!

Having said that, try your best to plan out a Danube cycling trip based on the mentioned hints of this article and then you will be able to share you experience! Last bu not the least, you can find out many other spots with Danube diversions on the Austrian territory, this is just a riveting one!

If you have any concern or just a remark do not hesitate to leave a comment or just contact me by using the dedicated form from the main menu!

Giuseppe

Cat Ba: natural park, limestone rocks archipelago and caves.

Dear explorers, after some inland exploration now it is time to switch into a different landscape of Vietnam, so I moved from the inland to the island of Cat Ba by travelling over night from Sapa town.

I want to start by saying that May is not the ‘ideal’ month for the weather conditions, as I arrived on the island an early-morning rain greeted me, however it didn’t bother me much, no matter what the weather, it will always be a riveting challenge! Here below you can look at a picture from my accommodation in the centre and an overview map of the island itself.

View from the main street in Cat Ba

My main desire was to go for a two-days trip which covered off the visit to the national park by ending up at the Viet farm village and then get transferred to a boat to reach a floating home-stay to sleep overnight, and then continue on the second day with a boat trip including kayaking and few secluded spots such as caves and lagoon, the tour agent is Cat Ba Green trail, here below I share the link to the trip schedule in detail: https://www.catbagreentrail.com/plan-your-trip/2-day-tour/17-cat-ba-national-park-lan-ha-bay-ha-long-bay-2-days-1-night-trekking-cycling-kyaking-swimming-tour.html

However, because of the rainy weather and that the previous day was 1st of May bank holiday their office was closed and nobody signed up in advance for such a trip. As a result, I got to flexibly adjust my action plan: I rented a motorbike for the first day to explore the natural park on my own and later on the second day I joined their one-day tour which I link it below: https://www.catbagreentrail.com/plan-your-trip/1-day-tour/14-lan-ha-bay-ha-long-bay-monkey-island-boat-tour.html

In spite of the grey clouds and the light rain, the passing scenery was generous. Look at below:

Once arrived at he national park the terrains were rather wet, however the visit was still worthy 101% and to cap it all the top view point is simply spectacular no matter what the weather is, it just requires some great willingness to trek up to there 🙂

After enjoying such a panorama, since the entrance ticket included also a visit to the Trung Trang caves, I headed straight there and I really was surprised how long the cave was all the way through. Few pictures will be available later on Flickr.

The next day started early, at 7:00am I gathered at the Cat Ba Green trail office with other participants, we were fourteen of us, the right number to be all in-pair when kayaking! Since the very beginning the tour guide was very professional as well as humorous and well-mannered: he explained all us few basic things about the tour such as the importance of starting at 7:30am which was on the purpose to avoid the rushing (usually all the other tours start at 8:00am). We got on the boat from the Beo pier, and the first hour of shipping was just spent chilling and take some photos.

After that, our tour guide approached us and started telling about his life story, how he ran the business and then told us some historical background of La Han Bay as well as Ha Long Bay, as he was mentioning us such detail, the boat was approaching the first floating houses and so he also told us more about people living in such places. Here below I have linked the video about the passing landscape bay:

Surrounding scenery from the boat

The more the boat was sailing, more floating houses were all around, out tour guide mentioned that those houses are usually set up close to the big rocks in order to be safely repaired from the storms of high waves coming through, moreover for those people in order to be settled there they had to get a permission from the state; finally the ones who have children, they send them to a school close to the harbour by a private boat each day and on the way back to the floating house they also have to wait for the scheduled private boat. See below few pictures about the floating village(s).

After getting over the floating village, we approached the area of the caves (dark, bat and bright cave), here we started the kayaking session by first getting off the boat at a small jetty to get into the kayak, that was my third time kayaking in my life, even I struggled a bit at the beginning in keeping the kayak straight I managed not to flip it over 😀

After kayaking, the boat shortly stop at a dive snorkeling point where there were also some harmless jellyfishes, however because of the weather the view of seabed was rather disappointing, all lasted very few minutes. Finally, we had lunch with served food on the boat was really delicious, congrats to the sailors! And just pity that I did not take any picture of the buffet!

The next destination for the afternoon was Monkeys’ island, by the time we arrived there were some flashes of sunshine which made the landscapes looking with more vivid colours as well as brighty. It was time for some rock-climbing by using the hands (not with the ropes). All of us climbed up to the top viewpoint to enjoy the sunshiny part of the trip.

Finally, the name itself monkeys’ island, Yes, monkey were there at the bottom among the trees jumping around, we did not miss chance to record some of them who indeed played some naughty games, see the pictures below:

In conclusion, the one-day trip was fairly enough with a professional and friendly tour guide, I just cannot remember his name, however you can check their website for any other available tour (the ink is at the bottom). Just be aware that favorable weather conditions in the island are on October-November and March-April, after that rains are frequent, but if you are not that paranoid then you’ll enjoy the Cat Ba experience regardless the weather 😉

For further details about their tours just refer to their web page: https://www.catbagreentrail.com/about-us/contact-us.html

Any remark and comments are warmly welcomed!

Giuseppe

SAPA: second day OFF the beaten tracks among the remote villages

Following my previous post for the first day of trekking, for completion I dedicate this post for the second day of SaPa adventure 🙂

First of all, the home-stay where we slept was nicely arranged for us foreigners and I was surprised since they even had a western toilet with shower (my guess is that they would not have the same toilet in other houses/shelters in the village), the reason behind that is that they cooperate with Sapa O’ Chau tour which is one of the most reliable and best rated tour agent in SaPa and besides that, Sapa has become a popular destination nowadays. However, be sure that if you ever end up sleeping at a casual house in such villages you could never expect a western toilet! The experience in Indonesia (Flores) taught me something.

Secondly, like in every village the morning starts very soon, at 5am you can already observe ‘women at work’ taking care of the chickens, goats and cows already awoken, and myself I caught the chance to get up to record the scenery during the sun-raising , after that I just returned to the bed to sleep a bit more. Finally we all got up around 7:30am to enjoy the offered breakfast and get ready to set off.

Not until we started off, we had to trek further up to a steep hill on a muddy trail, despite the conditions of the trails local people ventures to get through by scooter, I could imagine how often they break the suspensions 😀

When we arrived at the top-point of Soi Thau village there were two kids playing with each other and smiling to us like to say ‘Welcome aliens!’

Once we reached the top point, the trail upfront looked at our eyes long and well-distributed throughout the immense landscape, compared to what we had to trek the day before this was a way easier, after one hour of trekking we got to pass through a weak water-stream originated by a small waterfall see the picture below:

Water pool in-between the trail

it was nothing impressive, we stop by to record some scenery around, then when we continued, we finally got to trek gradually upper and upper, the trail itself had been carved along the perimeter of the hills and it was wide enough so that we were fully-safe 🙂

at one point we end up passing one more farm house, as aliens we said ‘xin chao‘ to the local guy outside the house, however he did not react: our tour guide Su explained us that most of them are rather shy with the aliens and therefore they will barely react, in addition there is the title of the tour itself ‘OFF the beaten track’ 🙂 During the first day of the tour I made an estimation that we met max. three more foreigners who probably were with another tour guide, other than that no one more was around. See below the surrounding scenery 🙂

At one point we arrived at the top point of the last hill, and after that we only experienced downhill, the more we were getting down and more we started observing more and more houses which was the sign we were slowly approaching the semi-rural life, at one house in the outdoor space there were five kids who were fighting to drink from a bottle of water, it was just funny to observe them how cute as well as ‘naughty’, see below:

Here at this point our trekking turned into a walking down to the village of Ta Giang Phing, because we end up being on concrete narrow road which meant the beginning of the conventional civilization had taken over 😦 all the second day trekking lasted about four and half hours.

We stop at a typical open-air Vietnamese tavern to enjoy a pork noodle soup spice with lime, chili and mint!

All in all, this is an experience I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to get away from the agitation of the conventional civilization, it is worthy for the money, moreover if personally I were to travel back to SaPa, I would surely go for a motorbike tour off the beaten track.

As for the tour agent trips, check out their website here below:
http://sapaochau.org/sapa-trekking-and-homestay/

Any remark is welcomed!

Giuseppe

SAPA: first day OFF the beaten tracks in the rice fields terraces and rural villages

Dear explorers, I have finally completed out my 6th journey mission in South-East Asia, this time I dedicated my attention to Vietnam.

Unlike my previous deep experience with Indonesia, here I had less time to spend and so I had to draw a narrowed draft plan out of a total of fifteen days, perhaps here some might argue by saying that it is enough time, however unfortunately it is not enough for all Vietnam 😦

Because the time frame of my exploratory holiday was just fifteen days, I decided to divide it in two parts: the challenging part and the soft part.

Why that?

The reason behind is simple: if you first challenge yourself with a hard task then you will be able to appreciate the chilling part, on the contrary it would not work out much.

After making some research, I decided it was worthy to visit the SaPa area with its breathtaking nature characterized by rice fields terraces, because I always like to get off the beaten tracks (suitable for the lazy ones), I booked the following two-days tour by Sapa O’Chau tour:

http://sapaochau.org/sapa-trekking-and-homestay/sapa-trek-and-tour/trekking-tours/off-the-beaten-track-2-day/

Overview map of SaPa

Despite the attendance for the tour was only myself with the tour guide ‘Laju Su’, as soon as I arrived at the Sapa O’Chau office I found out that one more attendee signed up at last minute which was a pleasant news for my pockets since the actual price was decreased of almost 50%, in addition to that, as a nice coincidence the other participant was an Italian compatriot woman called ‘Elena’, I never imagined to be trekking with a woman solo traveler as a companion however we all know that at this world there are also brave women up for such an amazing trekking 🙂

As first, we were brought by car to the starting point of our trekking which was the Ta Phin village, while starting the hike in the village some local ladies approached us by asking to buy their hand-made hats, however since we were keen to enjoy the nature we did not buy any, perhaps on a next time!

As we approached the first uphill we enjoyed the first amazing landscape view with rice field terraces and a village nearby as shown above, and soon we had to deal with a broken path, probably caused by a natural disaster, fortunately there were two bulldozers in action which tried to pave and clear the broken path in front of us, however we had to carefully watch our steps, see image below:

Blocked trail

the more we trekked uphill the more we got into the a secluded valley, on the way we met few women as farmers who were carrying vegetables and few locals riding a motorbike through the path.

After three and half hour of trekking we reached the first remote village named Phin Ho, we stopped at a farm house where our clever tour guide managed to prepare for us two maxi-sandwiches (just look at it below), in addition to that, we noticed that the owner of the house was chilling out by smoking some herbs by using a big bamboo pipe which was really funny for me as a non-smoker guy 😀

After our lunch break, we resumed our trekking by getting a bit to the bottom of the deep valley, the scenery on the way down was more and more breathtaking and at one peak viewpoint we decided to take one more break with a short nap. Here, I caught the chance to record such a video of such amazing surrounding scenery, just watch it below!

Deep valley on the way to Suoi Thau village

After our chilling break we continued on the trail to Ta Giang Phing village (final destination on the second day) and here we approached the deepest point of the green valley:

We got to cross two bridges, the first one was a bit challenging because rope-less, only one person at once could traverse it to avoid the risk of collapsing, moreover the frame was made by bamboo pipes not fixed but shaking instead! Having had similar challenges in the past in the first moment I believed I could make it with hassle-free, however my first approach was not such good one: I approached it by putting down my feet almost straight in-line on the pipes, as a result my body balance was getting compromised, the tour guide realized it and invited me to reverse myself and step back, the spring of nervousness tripped out :-O although the guide wanted to convince me to get down by the small channel and then up, I stayed focused on the bridge challenge by letting the Italian girl to go first, I just observed her relaxed approach and as she crossed it, I acted accordingly by counterbalancing the second half of my body and angling my feed to keep safe my balance on the shaking bamboo pipes, even slow, the challenge was accomplished with no need to get down by the channel 🙂 Safety is never enough when dealing with the wild nature ;-D

After that, we got to hike farther until we end up crossing a proper safe pedestrian bridge.

After one more hours, we approached our target destination of the first day
Soi Thau village. Here we observed such an amazing rural life of the local people taking care of their goats and buffaloes as well as people who were building up a brand-new house.

That was the beginning of the destination village of Suoi Thau, we had to trek up farther over a hill to reach our home stay, the trail was aggressively steep up to the hill with some spread-ed mud around, I started feeling a bit powerless, nevertheless we achieved our day target by arriving there around 4:30pm, where we chilled-out at the home stay and we were provided with such a proper delicious Vietnamese BIO-food 🙂

Our first trekking day was nicely over, all we needed was just a good dinner and a sound sleep what we got.

A new post will follow soon by covering the 2nd day of trekking. GoPro movie session is now available at the video section of my blog: https://theblogofeggiamp.com/video-posts/

Flickr images powered by Sony alpha 6000 are availabe at my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/giuseppegiampino/

Any remark is warmly welcomed 😉

Giuseppe

KAPAS island: the golden compromise for snorkeling, trekking or just relaxing.

Dear explorers,
Christmas is round the corner and I have finally gotten some time to dedicate a post about Kapas island which is situated on the east coast of Malaysia.

East coast map

This island is easily reachable by taxi cab from Kuala Terengganu via Marang jetty as shown in the screenshot of the map, all you need is to get either a TAXI driver from the airport or bus station of KT or alternatively randomly stop a non-official driver to be brought to Marang, it takes approximately twenty-minutes and it costs max. 30RM. When it comes to the boats, there are few operators running the service, one of those is SuriaLink: http://www.kapassurialink.com/contact/ just get to their small office by the jetty, buy the ticket on the spot and they will take you to Kapas on the condition you arrive at the jetty earlier than 5pm.

The transportation time is just ten minutes since the island is pretty close to the coast, therefore do not expect to be on comfy huge boat 🙂 such an island is for whom desires to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and/or try to learn diving; altogether there are about ten resorts on only the west side of the island, most of those accommodations are in a minimalist/rusty style but acceptable unless you have very-high expectations 🙂 Besides that, most of them are hardly bookable through the well-known booking engines and they do not even have a web-page on the net, all you can do is contact them via phone/whatsapp by dialing the number mentioned on Google map: https://www.google.com.my/maps/place/Kapas+Beach+Chalets+(KBC)/@5.2203715,103.2616012,17.81z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x31b7eb62ae4ed317:0xeae0e00cf3526864!2sKapas+Island!3b1!8m2!3d5.2190041!4d103.2649049!3m4!1s0x0:0x6ab65d73f44613b3!8m2!3d5.2195881!4d103.2614375

I personally visited Kapas twice and experienced a pleasant stay at KBC wooded-resort, it is owned by a dutch guy and a german woman who decided to settle themselves on the island and live there all over the year, they indeed nicely take care of it by performing regular maintenance jobs. My first time on Kapas was on March 2016, this is the very beginning of the dry season since the monsoons stop in the middle of February, I did not experience any single rainfall, just hot and dry 😀

KBC wooded-built resort
Sea view from KBC

Because Kapas with KBC resort resulted into a winning combination, I decided to keep their contact details and later on June 2017 I was back there for three days. Both times I visited it, I had the chance of enjoying Jungle trekking, snorkeling and just relax at the beach. Because the number of the resorts is limited, not-so many visitors will be able to get to such a gorgeous island, moreover most of visitors are locals, the only exception is at KBC which attracts quite some European backpackers because of their very-good facilities, the kitchen, the chilling area and finally the convenient price list per night 🙂

My second stay on Kapas was characterized by two sunny days and one rainy and cloudy day; I took the advantage of the rainy/cloudy day to go for the jungle trail which perfectly fit as half-day trip, here below there is a picture taken in the jungle trail:

Jungle trail

Just two useful tips for you:

1. Avoid enjoying the jungle trekking when the suns is shining: you will be pouring of sweats more and more since you will get to climb down and up on some elevations, as a result you would be feeling far too thirsty and consequently you would get a sun stroke later.

2. Be provided with one big bottle of water as well as with the mosquito repellent to sprinkle on your arms and legs before starting to trek into the jungle.

(all the way takes you approximately 90 minutes)

During the sunshiny days I went for swimming and snorkeling instead, the seabed on the coral reef is simply amazing, full of sea urchins and colorful fishes, just watch the recorded GoPro video to be impressed:

Snorkeling at Kapas island

Last but not the least, here the sunrises and sunsets are very scenic and gorgeous, all you need is to walk along the west side of the island to catch your favorite beach and spot, you will not surely be disappointed as long as the sun shines.

To sum it up, this island is 100% worthy to spend one or more weeks to feel freedom and far away from the ordinary civilization. You can just relax and do nothing as well as deal with the sea activities which I described. On the other hand, if you are concerned about night hard-parties this is definitely not the island for you, however you can still enjoy soft parties over here but just over a delicious dinner with BBQ and perhaps watching some improvised fire torch play exhibition after the sunset. If you wish to see more pictures, just check out my Flickr album here below:

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Kapas island powered by Sony a6000

Any queries and comments are welcomed, Merry Christmas, Giuseppe

South of India: the unbeaten circuit of Andaman islands.

Dear explorers,

I finally have the chance to post something new about a brand-new destination focused on the archipelago of Andaman islands.

Andamans islands belong to India although are much closer to Thailand, it might sound a joke but it is so 🙂 When I planned it out, my general criteria was to try a more off-beaten area than any other island or group of island situated in the SE of Asia, by this I am not saying that all the islands I visited earlier were all beaten. However, after performing an accurate research, appeared that on Andaman’s the tourism is mostly made by Indians and very few foreigners are willing to travel there.

In addition to that, it has to be taken into account that Andaman&Nicobar archipelago is considered to be a RESTRICTED AREA, therefore only some of the Andaman side islands are open for tourism, these are: 

  1. Main land of Andaman (in which Port-Blair is situated)
  2. Havelock island
  3. Neil island    

Apart from those three, all the other islands are either private, tribal communities live there or are military bases.

Overview map of Andman’s

Having said that, you are good to plan your exploration within the restricted circuit which offers more than enough for exploring then especially on the main land.

Being biased with SE Asia, my first impact with India&Andaman’s was by no means the best one,

the reason of that?

Unlike in the SE Asia, in India is normal to find spread-ed garbage and rubbish aside the roads, wasted plastic material by the seaside  and so on. Sadly and disappointing as it may sound, that is a real fact of Indian environment, moreover, get used to the fact that will always encounter wild-free loitering goats, cows and dogs! They are really everywhere.

Apart from that, in here, more specifically on Havelock and Neil island there lots of mangroves beaches which on a way look nice but on the other hand it is annoying then especially when you want to enjoy a swim and to cap it all at certain time of the day the mangroves are completely dried, in other words they get emptied of water!

I personally tried to enjoy a walk around the mangroves when they were filled by water, however be aware that wear the water shoes is a MUST and last but not least carefully watch your steps since you might suddenly either end up approaching a not-so-visible sharp rocks or walking through some broken corals, either way they can trigger you to fall down! Moreover, I personally saw a yellow-black striped coral snakes which was sliding away, as a first impact it was not such a great feeling overall, however at least now I am aware of a real danger in walking through shallow mangroves sea surface, this is just to give a warning alert that nothing in here is really safe by the sea!

However, on Andaman’s you can find the hugest amount of colorful shells
by the sandy beaches , you can actually end up collecting hundreds by yourself without buying them at the markets, just give a try for believing.

When it comes to the sunset, fortunately both the two islands offer a gorgeous spot to enjoy a great sunset shooting/recording, the achieved scenery with the rocks watered by the sea is breathtaking, for your reference you can refer to this screenshot from Google maps:

Link to Google maps: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Sunset+Point,+Lakshmanpur+Beach/@11.8334078,93.0211909,14z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x3088d911c345f42f:0x7c35865380f4221f!2sSunset+Beach!8m2!3d11.8151731!4d93.0441074!3m4!1s0x3088da221d4f089f:0xefb8840f4c25e5c8!8m2!3d11.8496796!4d93.0125177

Just to impress you with an idea here below I have uploaded two scenic picture over the sunset at Neil island:

In conclusion, if it were not for the tons of spread-ed garbage everywhere, wasted plastic and glass, it could really be defined as a ‘Paradise’ like Indians proudly advertise it. Unfortunately the so-called ‘Paradise’ is shadowed by quite some environmental issues and this is something which Indian state should really take every effort to cut off any ecologic issues, someone might dispute on this point by affirming that it is easy to say than actual implementing a serious ecologic plan for the environment.

What could the main issue be in making it happen? Lack of funds perhaps?

Well, if that is the case, I could advance a hint: India as a state could introduce the payment of a tax at the arrival on each island, like they do in some islands in Thailand, Malaysia and in Indonesia; in addition to that, the state could instruct the owners of the resorts on how-to gather the wasted plastic and glass materials, perhaps this all might help in creating an awareness campaign among the entrepreneur on the island(s) as well as the visitors in order to be respectful with the surrounding environment. Naturally, that is not the only one issue there are many others, but at least I hope that one day this could be one of the solution to improve the quality of the environment on such an unofficial paradise 🙂

Last but not the least, it is about the time zone GMT+5:30 which is equals like anywhere in India as land, just Andman’s are far in the east, as a result this time zone is a huge imbalance for the sunrise and sunset time, do you imagine that it is already dark at 5:30pm? I personally think that Indian government should grant a different time-zone for Andaman’s.

Any comments and remarks is warmly welcomed!

Giuseppe

ITALY, low Piedmont: hilly countryside with viticulture and culinary BIO-farm food.

Dear explorers,
the autumn is now started, so I am here to dedicate this (first) post about my home-country.                                                                                                                                          When it comes to Italy, someone might be thinking ton of things such as nature, food, drinks, fashion, arts and so on. However, I will just focus your attention on a specific tiny area of Italy which is probably not-so known by everybody but still it would be 100% worthy to spend free-time by forgetting the routine of the urban life.

The low Piedmont, more in specific the province of Asti as shown above is known to have the largest number of red-wine producers as well as a number of BIO-food farmers, besides that, it is also challenging for enjoying outdoor sports such as mountain-biking  and running, and because I firmly believe that the real life is a balance between sports and healthy food, this area of Italy would likely 90% fulfill such a goal 😉

Below there are three pictures showing the scenery as well as the trail:

As a first thing, while in my living Country Slovakia the cold autumn got started since few days before leaving, here in Italy I was nicely greeted with such a pleasant warm weather which has been almost like summer with +25 during the day.

Secondly, from the Mt-biking perspective, the trail was like dry soil beaten by tractor which is a way more challenging on the up-going parts then especially if your MTB is not provided with tick wheels like a the ones of a fat bike, as a result for the first time I ended up pushing my bicycle half-way up to the top wine hill. Both pictures above and video below represents the surrounding landscape of San Paolo Solbrito, and right on that that the Real-feel temperature was of +28C, indeed it was like in the summer.

Coming to the culinary aspects, here there is lot of variety to mentions and I am not pretty sure whether I could cover off such a tough topic 😀

One sunshiny day, I enjoyed a BIO-farm food shopping and I ended up being at the BIO-farm store named ‘Pijte ‘L Piasì‘ better knows as ‘Anzienda agricola Gilli’, they just have the Facebook page which I have mentioned below:

https://it-it.facebook.com/PIJTE-L-PIASI-Az-Agricola-Gilli-177356392404491/

As you enter this place, you will realize straightaway that here you have the embarrassment of choice which goes from the fresh cured meats, gastronomy until the organic green vegetables.

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Every single thing bought in here comes from their own family BIO-farm GILLI and I can ensure you that it worths for every single €uro you spend out of your pockets, IE the reversed nine test was with fresh full-fat milk that I have been enjoying it over the breakfast time, normally I do not put up easily with the full-fat milk but this one I always digest it with no issue. On the other hand you are supposed to consume it preferably within three days as you freshly bought it.

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In conclusion, having my parents living in this countryside are since quite some years I have become knowledgeable and I noticed that more and more of this BIO-farm producers have also arranged budget B&B accommodation which could give to some curious foreign visitors a great experience by stepping into such this countryside which is just 35km away from Turin.

Should you need for any recommendation, do not hesitate to contact me or just leave a comment.

Few more posts will shortly follows this one 😉