5. Pidurangala Rock, Sigiriya

my ideal state all day

While deciding between Pidurangala or Sigiriya, we opted to climb the former first. It was cheaper, less crowded, and by cheaper I do mean it’s more than 25 times cheaper.

Ready!

I forgot how we got there, but http://www.yonderingsoles.com/2017/11/30/dambulla-sigiriya-pidurangala/ knows. Convenient cache of memories!

We never got to Sigiriya in the end because it closed by the time we went down and walked over. Well, we got a glimpse of it from our viewpoint, so I wasn’t particularly bummed about it. =D

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3. Adam’s Peak

Hatton – Dalhousie

My favourite pictures are from Adam’s Peak.


It’s funny, I had so many hours of train rides on this trip, hours and hours chugging along the tracks, but somehow I had chosen to while my time away instead of jotting down my memories. It’s not a bad thing really, I was immersed in the moment I suppose. The continual movement of myself provided a justified limbo for myself, a space where I did not have to do anything, if I didn’t want to. What a luxury! What a luxury. Or maybe I should stop measuring the quality of my time using the notion of productivity.

Doing nothing is doing something. It is being in the moment. Being present.

Base of Adam’s Peak (Dalhousie)

We had slept at around 10pm, brushed our teeth and gone to bed, and set our alarm at 2 or 3am. Another midnight hike, where we set off in the breezy night, my quiet breath overtaking the ones around me as I followed cz’s pace. I remember the coolness of my right hand as it brushed against the raindrops along the silver railings – an impression I recall despite the darkness, a flashing torchlight by the French tourist behind me perhaps – a stillness that jolted my bleary mind slightly as I walked on, half-dazed from my lack(?) of sleep.
The sunrise was nice. If I were to be honest, the view wasn’t particularly impressive. We had reached at 5am or some sort, ahead of our schedule, and had to wait 1-2 cold hours at the top. I rocked forward and backward as I hugged my knee against my chest. We ate the lemon and chocolate biscuits as we waited for the sun to rise. The rows of spectators watched, and murmurs emerged along with the awakening colours. At last, the people around us got up and waved their hands in the sun. 

Mount Ophir, Malaysia

The interesting thing about Mount Ophir was how we had to count and account for every single item we brought up along with us. We had to write them down on a form, all the items that we had with us, and bring our baggage back to check with the forms after the hike. Apparently, 5RM will be charged for every missing item. That meant every packaging (e.g. 5 packets of biscuits, 2 socks, 1 hairtie, 1 hand sanitizer…)

While I was amused, I appreciated such measures. Sometimes it’s necessary for such actions to prevent the laziness of human from contaminating the environment.

I liked this part :p

These were rubbish from before they implemented this ‘count the amount of items you carry up’ regulation – and possibly the reason for it

The next day CZ and I stayed in JB and walked around for a local food hunt.

 

Mount Ophir with friends – Malaysia

IT’S A BIRD!
No, IT’S A PLANE!
No….. IT’S MOUNT OPHIR!!!!!!!!!111!!!!!111!!!!!!
(no it’s actually cashew nuts)
crew!
partner!
SUMMIT!

I liked this weekend trip, I like how a single weekend becomes memorable. A quick getaway to another place, unlike a usual routine weekend.

I also liked how my friends came along this trip. 😀 With work these days, it’s quite hard to find time to get everyone together. This was a great opportunity, and I’m really glad and appreciate that it was organized ❤

Photospam of memories, of people I appreciate in my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dharamsala, Himchal Pradesh, India (Triund Hill)

‘Dharamshala is a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Surrounded by cedar forests on the edge of the Himalayas, this hillside city is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.’


Mcleodganj, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile. Here, I met the craziest fun-loving guitar-playing-on-a-hill hosts whom I learnt from about the caste system, the hijras, the sacredness of the cow in Hinduism, and other cultural curiosities.

my hosts

I had so much fun with them, we were laughing nonstop from almost the night we met to the next day. Short, but sweet. I took many videos of them singing. We did one birthday song with them strumming the guitar. I was so happy.

full of nonsense (as usual)

People my age, exactly my age. Making fun of my Chinese eyes. Man, I don’t get that too much around here, it took me awhile to get used to and reminded me to check my privilege here.
I think back to the first night my bus reached the terminal at Dharamshala at 9pm or something. The sun had set. Divyang said he’ll pick me up. I didn’t feel that worried, but my panic meter started rising when we drove into the darkness (poor street lighting) and he said he wanted to bring me to a place. We stopped at the entrance of a gate. It was a cemetery.

The rest, as it unfolds, is a hilarious memory. I will always remember this epic experience. Lollllll

Dharamsala definitely feels safe. Tranquil. Many restaurants here sell Tibetan food – the mantou and noodles, etc. Shop signs in Tibetan. I briefly asked if the locals here feel threatened by the influx of culture. Seems like in the initial beginnings yes, but now it’s better and generally peaceful. Borders.

 

Ijen Crater (Photo Log)

A crater lake is a lake that forms in a volcanic crater / caldera.
Crater lakes covering active (fumarolic) volcanic vents are sometimes known as volcanic lakes, and the water within them is often acidic, saturated with volcanic gases, and cloudy with a strong greenish color.
‘The lake is the site of a labor-intensive sulfur mining operation, in which sulfur-laden baskets are carried by hand from the crater floor. The work is paid well considering the cost of living in the area, but is very onerous. Workers earn around Rp 50,000 – 75,000 ($5.50-$8.30) per day and once out of the crater, still need to carry their loads of sulfur chunks about three kilometers to the nearby Paltuding Valley to get paid.’

THE delicious blue flames licking the edges of darkness

tiny silhouettes crept closer towards it, the bellowing fumes that occasionally cloaked them out of sight
sunrise

 

What I remember: Ijen is a more arduous hike than Bromo of course, stumbling in the darkness down the rocky steps with our gas masks.

 

 

crew!

 

Mt Bromo, Indonesia

More info and details at Yonderingsoles.com!


Closest I’ve ever been to an active volcanic crater, peering at it up close – I could hear faint explosive growls from the distance as looming grey plumes of ash clouds rolled slowly, unabashed, towards the bright blue sky. Stared wide-eyed and fascinated, in awe of the majesty of Mother Earth. Every now and then, if one took a closer look, the ash walls of the crater would crumble, eroded over time. What’s happening within your grumble?

The first day we landed in Surabaya, we found ourselves on the road for several hours before reaching Probolinggo, the base city of Mount Bromo. I recall feeling ravenous by (a pretty late) dinner-time, which may or may not have accounted for the ridiculously delicious indomee we had for dinner. It was so delicious, I remember wanting to gobble down packets of it. I could have easily eaten another 2 packets.

Photo-log below:

Company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. TJ – Yamchun / Khakha Fortress

In Yamchun, we stayed at a… bed&breakfast, gingerly perched upon the side of a mountain. should i describe it this way?

i remember we drove up a slope as night started to fall, our surroudings dimming

up we went, up a long steep slope

the place surprised me a little, a bed and breakfast located so high up, and inaccessible withot a car, highly prone to mass movement, i thought to myself

i briefly hoped it wouldn’t rain

all was well, we slept well.

1. Early morning – we woke up for a morning walk

Climbed up some height just in time as the sun rose

It felt like a random peak, and it felt like the mountains here could be climbed randomly

We hiked up and up and up in a way that reminded me of Mt Agung, and I was reminded of my weakness

waiting for me

Then the glowing sun rose and I finally reached and I heaved a sigh of relief as I sat on the stone to catch my breath, feeling sore about feeling weak

but i was happy when i reached. hurray!

i like this picture alot. hehehe

It was beautiful – I was reminded once again that such a sight can be seen only if one works his/her feet, and I was pleased

2. Bibi Fatimah – hot springs

The best hot shower ever. The best shower I had in the week (HAHAH). I’m dread cold showers, showers in the cold. The hot springs came to me as a huge relief – hot gushing water that embraced me. We had to step in without our clothes, the men and the women had separate rooms. I thought of the hot springs in Japan, and followed shyly stripping before I stepped into the warm embrace of the waters

Here the locals believe in the medicinal / spiritual qualities of the hot spring, and one can get granted wishes or cures for medicinal conditions / fertility grants if they pick a stone here (or something)

I stepped in cautiously, and was greeted by a lady completely unabashedly naked

The gushing warmth of the shower flowing seamlessly from the marbles of nature massaged my body (as exaggerated as it may sound) – best shower ever, I thought to myself gratefully

I hadn’t had a proper shower for too long. I am always grateful after going without warm showers for some time

I scrubbed my hair and brushed my teeth with ease, taking my time

3. Yamchun Fort

We then went to the beautiful Yamchun Fort.

The most impressive of the valley’s many tumbledown castle ruins, complete with multiple walls and round watchtowers. It was beautiful, breathtakingly so. There was some men up there, though. It strikes me as a surprise (or not) that there’s no attempt at protection / restoration efforts at a site this beautiful. It’s almost like an abandoned random place where people are free to ascend. Not that that’s a bad thing, but a historical site like that, this beautiful, has potential to claim greater recognition and should be preserved.

part of the ruins at the fort

the view

 

the hershey kisses mountains

interesting place, but some workers were throwing some bricks down next to us. I’m not sure what they were doing, but these bricks lying vulnerable, I could easily throw them around too. Wonder how this fort will look like in 50 years.

Driving along ishkashim, we passed by gigantic rocks and a beautiful sandy place, littered with broken beautiful patterned rocks, marble rocks of green and blue stripes that aligned neatly in pieces. I gaped at the lovely pile scattered nonchalantly on the floor. So amazing!!! So beautiful!! What were all these metamorphic rocks doing here? How were they related to the marble hot springs at bibi fatimah? What is it about this area that gives them the condition to form? We played with the softest sand glittering on the shapeless landscape.

Bye bye Yamchun Fort!! You were beautiful!
MOST BEAUTIFUL ROCKS!!!!! I wanted to pick up many of these and bring them home, but i contemplated for some time. SHOULD I? IS IT ECOLOGICALLY UNFRIENDLY??? WHAT IF EVERY TOURIST BROUGHT ONE HOME? TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES LEAVE NOTHING BUT MEMORIES?!?!?!
BUT… WILL I EVER VISIT THIS PLACE AGAIN? NO. 99.999999% NO.
Anyway I didn’t. I don’t think I’ll collect rocks. But I have the photos.

 

convenient platform for scribbles

we had alot of fun here, taking videos of the sand slipping from our grasps. why are the videos? – inserts video from memory –

Lunch, then

4. Khakha Fortress (Wakhan Valley)

We walked up the steps and met with some men in army green. Are those guards? I asked, as we drew closer. I think so, they look like they have… Guns. Cz replies. Calmly, as we walked closer, he greets the officer and proceeds nonchalantly. Me, I walk hesitantly behind, my nervous grin emerging. I try to be friendly and make conversation – we’re tourists, how old they were, … The age similarity (22 years old) assured me in some way- surely that forged some sort of connection, surely they won’t shoot me? Of course they won’t, but the thoughts that come to my mind when I see a gun (and especially when pointing at me incidentally) I do freak out

They turned out to be really friendly. I have a photo of me with them somewhere. They even agreed to our 360 degrees video.
A single river separates the 2 countries – Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Here’s the closest I might be.

 

View of Afghanistan across the river Panj, from the top of the Khakha fortress // Shuric pointed out across the river border, 300m away- ‘afghan car, afghan school, afghan cow,’ he says as we move on. We drive past an afghan woman and her children. They wave! We wave back at their tiny figures. ‘Afghan wife,’ Shuric says. ‘Afghan grass,’ ‘afghan flowers,’ Cz adds. I burst out laughing. We continue pointing out ‘afghan house, afghan washing clothes,’ Just a river away. So near in distance, but so distant nonetheless. I wonder if this is the nearest I’ll ever be.

 
While walking along this path, a part of me pictured getting shot from the back, thinking about the last film I watched with a landscape like that. LOL

 

James Bond Shuric. Too picturesque, we make him pose for us over and over again  (HAHAH)


 

James Bond Shuric
indeed, over and over again

Shuric pointed out across the river border, 400m away- ‘afghan car, afghan school, afghan cow,’ he says as we move on. We drive past an afghan woman and her children. They wave! We wave back at their tiny figures. ‘Afghan wife,’ Shuric says. ‘Afghan grass,’ ‘afghan flowers,’ Cz adds. I burst out laughing. We continue pointing out ‘afghan house, afghan washing clothes,’ Just a river away. So near in distance, but so distant nonetheless.

A typical plate of Tajik biscuits / sweets placed before and after each meal
Reaching Dushanbe -in the squeezy car
+10 hour drive from Khorog to Dushanbe, a conclusion that wrapped up some uncomfortable events.
 
Bye to the Pamirs and rural villages! On to Dushanbe and the city!
(the city’s hot showers and consistent electricity supply, the cars and the shops and the people, the wifi. not that i necessarily prefer so, but the absence of them during the week made these comparisons of facilities more pronounced. actually yes la i prefer so la HAHHA but i also love the nature and the quiet here but perhaps not forever, not for life)
 

 

11. TJ – Wakhan Valley (Langar to Ishkashim)



‘Today we drive along the Afghan border from Langar to Ishkashim. En route we visit the Buddhist Stupa in Vrang, the ruins of Yamchun Fortress, the sacred hot springs of Bibi Fatima Zahra and the old fortress of Kah-Kaha in Namadgut.

We arrive in Ishkashim in the late afternoon and settle into our family run homestay.
Ishkashim is a small town at the mouth of the Wakhan corridor, where the 19th century Great Game ended. Continue up the north side of the river with amazing views of the Pamirs to the left and the Hindu Kush to the right; a number of peaks in view are above 6,000 m.’
 

We crossed to the Wakhan valley. It was snowing and the fog was thick, concealing the distance. At the guard post in front of us was a truck facing issues with its petrol, so we stopped for awhile. I looked the the creaking flagpole with the rusting metal flag, green and white and red, and the guardhouse scribbled in blue crayon-like words. The soldiers in their military uniform, a gun peeking from beneath. My driver standing next to the guard post with the soldier. He walks over to check our boot. I am slightly nervous, as always when crossing borders. They remind me of a scene from a foreign film – I know that is because that’s the only time I’ve ever seen the Persian-descent, blue-eyed features of the Tajik-Afghan region.

I am nervous anyway. Ah, media.

We drive slowly along the Wakhan valley. How curious, that a single river separates the border between the two countries. Just less than 300m away. It is a mountainous, barren place. It was foggy and cold.



Zong Castle (vishim qala):



crossing a small stream on our way up

dog following us

he likes

This is one of my favourite memories. Here, we met a boy (a young shepherd carrying a bleating sheep) who brought us to his home.

I remember him gesturing for us to come in. Hesitant but curious, I gingerly stepped into his house. We smiled, uncertain, taking in the carpets and the ceiling with its Pamiri roof and the things around us. He gestured for us to sit down, and we did.

His mum tried not to look surprised at our presence. We smiled at each other, and I took out my pens from Singapore and gave it to them. I then asked them to smile for a polaroid.

They smiled at the photo, and the little boy immediately stuck it on the wall along the doorway. He smiled at his mother. She then gestured for us to sit down, and went away for some time. A moment later she appeared, with warm bread and a bowl of goat milk (presumably) for us each.

Wasn’t sure if it was impolite to completely refuse, but at the same time we didn’t want to impose or take too much from them either. We tore a little piece from the warm bread and ate them, and drank the bowl of goat’s milk. I believe it’s freshly squeezed; I still remember it was cold, and had little curdlike texture in it. I gulped it down.

Took a photo with them, and took our leave, feeling warm and happy. He walked with us a little bit, and we waved him back as it was drizzling. I can still remember me waving to him as I walked on, watching his figure grow smaller and smaller. I can still remember his delighted grin, and his genuine excitement as he invited us back to his home.

This was the first time I’ve ever, ever been invited to a stranger’s home.

Vrang buddhist stupa – here we met a group of children looking for rubies, it seemed. The little girl opened her palm, and showed me some rocks. ‘are these rubies?’ she had asked. I shrugged. Later, I read that there was indeed a ruby mine around the area.

 

Climbing up a seemingly random unmarked path

 

nice view

here, we saw the little kids climbing up as well

followed them down
as we walked down, their mother called out to them, and then to us. she waved for us to come down.
so we did, we followed them down. they spoke English, and we chatted for awhile.
They’re a clearly friendly family, and spoke some good English. The children learn English in school. They asked how long we were staying, and poured us some tea.
The little girl took out her English textbook.
I loved this part, because the English textbook had the Tajik words to it. Here, as we went through the English word of vocabulary like ‘bed’, ‘table’, ‘breakfast’, ‘dinner’, they told us the Tajik translation as well. The Tajik versions were so difficult! They corrected us patiently, and we tried to learn.
We lauded them for their ability to grasp both Tajik and English.
It was fun :))
The sun was setting soon, and we had to leave. We had stayed a little too long, Shuric must be waiting. Took polaroids and bidded them farewell.

I will remember you 🙂

Drove on and stayed in Yamchun for the night

i remember walking to this toilet

it’s an interesting toilet, hence i took a photo of it

being butt-naked in the cold is cold

At night in Yamchun – no lights, I read my book and slept

6. KGZ – Arslanbob – Hike to the Holy Rock!

 

Arslanbob, the largest walnut forest in the world.
It’s not the season for the harvesting of walnuts, unfortunately. Nonetheless, we were determined to find its traces before we left.

Fresh air!

At the CBT office, we took a close look at the tourist map:

We aimed to approach the Holy Rock, that little dot along the contours of the hill.
Little did we know how hard it was to identify the rock in the actual landscape. The ominous dark clouds gathered….
Warning sign: dark clouds ahead

Community-Based Tourism:

‘-While in Kyrgyzstan, please respect local people’s traditions, cultures and religion.

-Pay fair price for lodging, food and services. Buying local products benefits the local economy.

-When entering a home, don’t forget to take off your shoes.

-Don’t smoke in homes.

-Please don’t give anything to begging children; it teaches them poor habits.

-Carry a plastic bag for litter. Pack up all non-biodegradable rubbish.

-Please don’t drop cigarette butts or candy wrappers – set a good example for children!

-High altitude vegetation is frail; avoid trampling, and do not pick plants or flowers in quantity.

-Leave only footprints, take only photographs.’

Extracted from the CBT office in Arslanbob

Walked past cows
Past large roaring waterfalls
Trekked through the rocky edges
Wandering along the valleys
It started to rain. We walked towards what seemed like the Holy Rock, but there didn’t seem to be any definite path. Was this the route? Was this the path for the animals? We walked on, even as it poured relentlessly.
Rest-stops along the way

It was a long day, I recall walking through the rain and immense wind at one point, but we walked on anyway. When we eventually walked back we were tired, but grateful for the mutual support and encouragement.

I love Arslanbob for its beautiful calm nature that is free for me to embrace!