Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bako National Park

Hey there! Sorry for the late update. Been quite busy lately with my studies. I'm off once again, this time to Bako National Park. I was with my friends, Faris and Xavier. Since we all had a break from our studies, we decided to go to the national park. Bako is located approximately 37 km north of Kuching, and it takes around an hour plus to get there. Being Sarawak oldest national park, Bako is actually the smallest national park yet it contains all the types of vegetation found in Borneo. Being made a protected area since 1957, Bako has been reputable for its vast wildlife experiences. Visitors who want to spend more time here also have an option to do so as there are chalets along the Bako National Park Headquarter. Those who are interested can check it out here

Entrance of Bako National Park

The trip to the park itself consists of 2 parts. After setting foot to Bako village, you will have to catch a speed boat to the park HQ. On the way, I spotted these plants which is covered fully by thorns. My advice is watch out where you put your hands!

What is the best time to see wildlife ? Well, best times to see them are just after dawn and before dusk. During these times, the animals are most active. Its very likely you come across animals on trails if you travel in small groups, quietly. Another thing to look out for the macaques, as they occasionally raid dustbins and steal food or an unguarded bag. Bako is also a great spot for bird watching and is home to nocturnal animals such as civet, colugo, pangolin and mouse deer.

Wild boar seen roaming around

Proboscis monkey

We drove to Bako village and parked the car near to the fishing village. Then, we headed to the national park counter where we had to pay an entrance fee of RM 10. Next to the counter is the boat ticketing counter which costs RM 94 for the boat ride both ways to the national park. We all were kind of surprised as there was a lot of tourists there even though it was on a weekday.

Speed boat we took to the national park

All smiles

The price of the boat trips was pricy I gotta admit, as there was only 3 of us. As we could split the fare with up to 5 persons we waited a bit longer to see whether anyone wanted to share the fare with us. However all the tourists seem to have enough people to split the fares. After waiting for some time, we decided to just go for it. The boat ride was a 20 minute journey. You could see Mount Santubong on the way there, and I got to admit it was a pretty interesting boat ride.

Mount Santubong in view

Swampy area near the national park
Gentle reminder

After what seems like a short journey, the boatman finally dropped us at the jetty in the Bako National Park where we both made agreements on the pick up times. We agreed that the pick up time would be at 3pm. Once we got down from the jetty, we followed the pathway which lead to the park's HQ. There we filled in all our particulars and obtained the trail information we were about to uptake. There were various trails, each ranging from a half hour trail up to a 7 hour trail. We opted for the Ulu Assam route, an hour's journey which wasn't too short nor too long.

A guide leading to the trail we're about to take
The list of trails available

The trail up to Ulu Assam was unusually quiet when we followed the trail up. The trail up was quite steep and the pathways were uneven, so we had to be careful. We followed the red markers up and half way into the trail, we came upon Tanjung Sapi which was the shortest trail in the park. 

Steep climb up

The stairs can be quite slippery when its raining
We decided to stop at Tanjung Sapi for a while before continuing our journey up to Ulu Assam. There was a small hut there with an overview of the beach.

On the way up
Reached the first marker

After a brief rest there, we followed the markers up. As we followed the markers deeper into the trail, the markers just kind of disappeared. After going around for about half an hour trying to look for the markers, we decided to call it quits as the rain began to set in. Quickly heading to the hut at Tanjung Sapi viewing point, we decided to wait there till the rain stops. And while waiting for the rain to stop, we still couldn't figure out where the Ulu Assam trail was. After a while, we just decided to sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

The red and white markers

View from Tanjung Sapi
At about 1pm we were still at Tanjung Sapi viewing point. The weather was approaching and it didn't look like it was gonna stop raining. So we carefully made our way down the trail as we were afraid we would miss our boat ride back. The trail down was quite slippery and luckily I had my new shoes on. About 20 minutes later, we made our way back to the Bako HQ. There were lots of tourists waiting there as the rain got heavier and heavier. We waited inside till about 4pm, as the boatman didn't dare to ride into the choppy waves.

Random poses we did before leaving

Approaching weather
We had to wade out to the sea, as it was low tide that time and the boats couldn't reach the jetty. The ride back was pretty choppy and we got wet too. Half way back, our boat started to have problems. It was still raining though, we were stuck for about ten minutes in the open sea. Soon after that, another boat pulled up right next to us and offered to take us along too. Feeling cold and wet, we finally arrived back to the Bako fishing village.

Just after the weather starts to subside
We had to wade out to the boats

We quickly got changed then headed back. It was nevertheless a pretty interesting trip, especially the boat ride back. Although the waves was rough, and we almost fell off a couple of times, it was an awesome ride back. To sum it up, we all had a great time here although we couldn't find our way to the trail. I would definitely recommend this place for those who love the outdoors.

Bako's beach

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Gunung Gading

Whilst I was still in Kuching, I took the opportunity to explore the place even further. This trip, I headed over to the Gunung Gading National Park which was located in Lundu, around an hour plus journey from Kuching. Being overlooked most of the time, Gunung Gading is a great place to go for those who love the outdoors. I made my way here on a Saturday morning with my family. The national park can be a little bit hard to find as the signboards leading to it is kinda small and hidden away. After driving uphill for about 10 minutes we arrived at the entrance of the park. We started our journey, after handing over our numbers to the park ranger.

Entrance of the park

The park's HQ
The Gunung Gading National Park is opened daily from 8am to 5pm. Entrance fees are RM10 for locals and RM20 for foreigners. The park is not only known for the world's largest flower, Rafflesia, but also for its scenic waterfalls and wildlife. Spotting a Rafflesia flower is hard, as these flowers require nearly perfect conditions to bloom. Much to the disappointment of tourists, these Rafflesia flowers bloom at any time of the year and when it does bloom, it lasts for only 3 to 5 days before rotting. 

Rafflesia blooming

Little bit of info on Rafflesia
Found only in Borneo, Java, Sumatra and the Philippines, the Rafflesia is actually a rare parasite that can only be hosted by one type of vine, Tetrastigma vine. The Rafflesia smells like a rotting meat and can be smelt from quite a distance. Alternatively, you can also check with the Forestry Office in Kuching to find out whether any of the flowers are blooming. That was something we forgotten to do before coming here. We weren't that lucky that day as there wasn't any Rafflesia blooming. 

Map showing various trails
Seen here are my cousin, mom and dad

Trail leading up to the waterfall
There are a variety of trails available for visitors to Gunung Gading to explore, ranging from a short stroll to more challenging overnight hikes over the summit of Gunung Gading to the old Communist base camp at Batu Bekubu or to the summit of nearby Gunung Perigi. As you can see from the pictures, the longest trail here is the Batu Berkubu trail which takes 6 hours one way. Thats a 12 hour journey to and fro. And since we weren't equipped or prepared for it, we opted to for the waterfall no 7 instead as it is well known for the waterfall with the best view. 
Trek information
Spotted this lantern bug
Centipede on the move
On our way up to the waterfall, we came across the "Apek's Cave" (Old Man's Cave). The story is that an old Chinese man called Apek got lost on this mountain and he used this cave as a shelter for a few days while attempting to find his way back. Every night he slept under the outcrop of the rock and prayed to it to show him the way. When he finally did find his way back, he attributed this to the rock and afterwards came back everyday to pray and offer incense to it. Till today there's a pot for burning incense underneath the rock.

Me standing next to the Apek's cave
Jungle vines 
Other trails include the e former British base up, and over Gunung Gading, along to Batu Berkubu, the site of the former Communist Guerilla base camp and the View Points Trail, which provides some vantage points for views out to Lundu and southwards along the coast.

All smiles here from my dad
Following the red marker 
Pushing on to the waterfall
After half an hour following the trail, you will come up to the third waterfall which has its own story. Legend says that there were three princesses living here long time ago. They planted the "bamboo of love" which is guarded by the animals, and according to the legend, if you can find this bamboo you will be loved by all and you will be able to have 10 wives. We didn't spot any bamboo there, though. Haha ! Maybe thats for the best. The waterfall here has a really nice view, and it can be kinda quiet as not many people come by here. The waterfall looks really tempting to bathe in, however swimming is prohibited here.

Waterfall legend
Waterfall no. 3
As we made our way to the top, the trail got even steeper. Nevertheless we still pushed on, and as soon as we heard the gushing noise of the waterfalls, we all filled with enthusiasm. Tired from all the climbing, we finally took a dip in the 7th waterfall. The water was really cool and refreshing. There wasn't many people around there, so it was pretty quiet and relaxing. According to legend, Gunung Gading got its name from one of the 3 princesses who loved to bathe in the 7th waterfall. They were Puteri (Princess) Gading, Puteri Sri Guar, and Puteri Sri Geneng, each of whom was a guardian for the 3 main peaks. And according to the stories, if you are very lucky, you might see a fairy or mermaid bathing here early in the morning.

Signboards leading to waterfall no. 7
7th waterfall
Steffanie posing for the camera
The cool refreshing waters
After about half an hour there, we packed up and made our way down. The journey was pretty smooth, just that my shoes were the one that kept bugging me. Half way down, the soles of my shoes gave way! I had to practically walk bare foot all the way down. We dropped by the Rafflesia Boardwalk on the way down. This well-made boardwalk follows and criss- crosses a pretty little creek up through some attractive vine-draped rainforest. About 60 trees along this boardwalk are labelled with scientific and local names, providing a good opportunity to learn about the trees of the rainforest, and to see how rich and diverse the rainforest is.

Rafflesia boardwalk
Looks kinda cool eh!
The journey down was of course less taxing and it took a shorter time. We all did occasionally slipped as the trail was slippery. To sum it up, it was a great and memorable trip. We all were dead tired after that day. We dropped by Lundu for some lunch before heading back home. In a nutshell, Gunung Gading is a great place for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I wouldn't mind coming back here again one day.

My shoes after the trip
Mother nature at its best

Friday, 26 July 2013

Handy tips for backpacking

Most of the time people come up to me, asking how I make do travelling around all the time. And since I'm still studying, my budget can be tight at times. In today's post, I'll be sharing a few tips and advices about travelling on a low budget. Many thanks to a friend of mine KC Owens for sharing his article about travelling on low budget.

Seeing the World on Very Little Money

People often say that college is the best time a person can ever have in their lifetime. The truth is that it is kind of hard to believe that when your best friends from high school are drifting away, you are working a new job while going to school full time and finals are breathing down your neck! With all these stresses, college can seem slightly less exciting. Personally, I take my summer breaks away from home and let loose. Seeing the world, as a college student, is more possible than you may have imagined, so think about what you can do to make it happen.

Funding Yourself

Unfortunately, no one is handing out free vacations to see Belgium or Russia. Travelling costs money and the more you think about it, the more likely you might be to get cold feet. The money that is required to fly overseas can be a little daunting, and it might get even worse when you think about things like hotel fares. However, take heart. Students have been travelling the world for a very long time, and as the latest in a long line of college-age explorers, I have to say that the key to moving forward lies in proper financial planning. My job does not give me the opportunity to fund my trips completely, so I always end up borrowing some money. Look into credit cards that have very forgiving rates. This is how you can get a plane ticket without having to wait until you have a lot of cash up front; just make sure you can pay it back later! Aside from getting you expensive tickets, a great travel credit card will allow you to exchange currencies (automatically) and track your purchases so your bank account is much safer. Carrying a stack of cash can be a dangerous risk some travellers take while in foreign countries; I would not recommend it.

Hostel Living

One thing that makes people shy away from international travel is the cost of living in that city. Hotels are incredibly pricey, and if you want to make sure that it is not pulling money out of your pocket, you need to find other accommodations. For example, if you’re looking to save some extra cash, you can also look into hostels outside the city limits of where you’re staying. Hostels are designed for travellers just like you and they can ease the pain in your wallet. Choose hostels that are rated well for cleanliness and safety and always make sure that they are open when you get to town (24/7 check-in). It does you no good to get into town and to find that the hostel you wanted to stay at closes its doors at eleven at night and refuses to make exceptions. In order to keep these long, sleepless nights to a minimum, I use Hostelworld to help compare hostels and book my overnights ahead of time. Doing this saves me time and money; who wouldn’t want that, right?

Choosing Clothing

When you go to pack your sleek, low profile bag, you may be wondering what kind of clothes that you need. For the most part, keep it simple and keep it light. There are many people who find that they over-pack and then end up lugging it all over the place without really using everything. The best thing to do is to make sure that your clothing rolls up nicely. Resist the urge to pack natural fibres (they will wrinkle and not dry well). Clothes with polyester in them do not wrinkle as quickly, and they shed water more effectively. You should also make sure the shoes that you are wearing are sturdy. You are not going to be renting a car wherever you are going; you are going to be taking a lot of public transportation and doing a lot of walking so you’ll want a good pair of shoes with you. One of the most important items on your list should be a traveler’s money belt. These are lifesavers while travelling in foreign countries because you can keep your passport, cash, credit cards and phone in there and safely under your shirt. A pickpocket would have to work real hard to steal something from that!

KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves travelling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about. 

To conclude it all, it is possible to travel around the world on a tight budget. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as travelling. I love getting on trains, buses, boats and planes. I guess I've already been afflicted with wanderlust.