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

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

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:

DSC02158
Kapas island powered by Sony a6000

Any queries and comments are welcomed, Merry Christmas, Giuseppe