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:

DSC02158
Kapas island powered by Sony a6000

Any queries and comments are welcomed, Merry Christmas, Giuseppe

Banyuwangi: the four great natural attractions of East JAVA

Hello to everybody!

After so long time I am back to write more about JAVA of Indonesia.

Banyuwangi is basically the main town of East Java region, the four places which you should dedicate four days at least of your Indonesian journey are:

  1. Trekking to Ijen volcano crater with blue fire (if lucky to see it).
  2. Exploration of Baluran national park
  3. Exploration of Pulau Merah (Red Island)
  4. Exploration of Alas Purwo national park

The list above is based on what I personally managed to visit out of four days, however be aware that the list could become longer since there are more (hidden) spots that could be visited or even found out 🙂

Here below I state four reasons to visit those amazing attractions:

Why Ijen?

Even it is touristically advertised, if you like to enjoy a night trekking experience then it is 100% worthy, just before booking it with any tour agent be aware that the price of the package should be max. 400.000IDR (about 24€), if more then they are likely raping the pockets of the foreign western tourist. Me and a two German guys managed to get a negotiation for 250k IDR (about 15€). If you want to hear more about the tour agent details feel free to contact me and I will share the details.

The trekking itself takes apx. one hour but it is very intensive since the uphill path is aggressively steep, you will be hiking from about 1600mt of altitude up to about 2400mt, and the highest peak is 2799mt, so before going for the night trekking is recommended to take a nap 😉

Once you reach the top point you will enjoy a gorgeous scenery over the sunrise, so be provided with a camera and proper trekking shoes since you will get to walk quite a long way along the perimeter of the crater! Last thing but not the least keep in mind that you are supposed to wear the gas mask since the smell of sulfide is heavy to be breathed by your naked nose; the mask is provided by the tour agent or at the entrance point if you get there by yourselves.

Just take a look at the below pictures:

Why Baluran national park ?

If you like exploring a savanna which is full of buffaloes and colorful birds; in addition, you have opportunity snorkeling on the coral reef which is 100mt from the beach at the edge of the park then do not miss it! You need to rent a motorbike to get there unless you want to go by a tour agent.

Why Red Island?

This spot is really chilling and ideal for enjoying one of the best sunset when in Java, all you need is patience to get there, it is two hours and half of riding from Banyuwangi.

Why Alas Purwo national park?

If you are curious to see monkey taking a bath on the water streams just get there and record some funny movies (I will soon upload one), this park compared to the Baluran one is much bigger, I personally did not manage to get to the very end point because it was getting late and the off-road was muddier and muddier so ride carefully!

Of course there is more and more to talk about East Java, just it is too long to just fit it in a single article, however if you are curious about any detail, I will be glad to provide you with the needed information(s) as long as my knowledges support me 😀

Every comment is welcomed!

Giuseppe