Sunday, October 16, 2011

[Project Aware] the shark's life ain't easy

Hey there!

We have been in love with what Mother Nature has been offering since time immemorial.  We fell in love with her more when we started diving in 2007.  The biodiversity under the sea is just breathtaking.

Both of us enjoy seeing fishes, corals and the likes.  But nothing is comparable to the feeling whenever we see a gliding Stingray, a gigantisaur turtle, a sleeping cuttlefish, and a wandering shark.  However, this may not be the case for the future generations to come.

According to Project Aware:
Nearly one out of five shark species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as Threatened with extinction. That doesn’t even include hundreds of species (almost half of all sharks) whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information. Scientists warn that, in actuality, a third of sharks might already be threatened.
But it is not too late!  Your voice can make a difference.  You can still take action before this dreaded extinction happen.  By signing the following petitions, you will be able to shout out with Finn and Finley that you are also with them, along with the divers around the world, who wants better shark protection.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Day The Mountain Changed Us

04 August 2011.  2 days before our trip.  After seven months of planning and four months of saving, we're finally packing all our stuff preparing to climb Mount Kinabalu.  We have to exercise our packing skills so we can fit all our stuff into a 40L backpack and a 30L backpack :D
Mount Kinabalu or Gunung Kinabalu in Malay, is a prominent mountain (13,435 feet asl) located in the island of Borneo. Mount Kinabalu was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

06 August 2011.  We had dinner and a few drinks with couple of our friends.  After the usual Friday night out, we decided to spend the next few hours at Changi since we were hoping to tour around our favorite airport.  However, the check-in counters are still closed and yet to open at 4:00 in the morning :(.

After a few hours of waiting, we're finally waiting to board our flight.  We usually book the cheapest plane fare that we can grab when we travel.  There are only a handful of airlines who operate from SG to KK.  We decided to take the SIN-KUL-BKI because it was the cheapest flight we can get.  Two planes and two countries later, we finally arrived in Kota Kinabalu :)

Whenever we are in KK, Jay makes sure that we stay in Borneo Beach House (BBH).  It is located in Tanjung Aru and a stone throw away from Kota Kinabalu International Airport.  This is my second time to stay in this backpacker's inn and Jay's third. We had dinner and prepared for the next day's climb.

07 August 2011.  The day of our climb arrived.  We woke up at around 6:30 in the morning and waited for the van to pick us up and bring us to the jump-off point.

From Tanjung Aru, our journey started.  It was an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu City to Mt. Kinabalu Park.  The temperature started to drop when we arrived at Kinabalu Park.  Our guides did the registration for us and gave us our packed lunch and our IDs :)

There are two ways to trek the Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail. You can either start via Timpohon Gate (trail in red) or through the alternate route Mesilau.  Mesilau  starts from Mesilau Nature Resort, 15 km away from Kinabalu Park HQ.  Before climbing, we decided that we will be going via Timpohon, because it has a 'shorter' route going up (but doesn't mean 'easy' :P).

The trek started in Timpohon Gate at around 10:00 am.  The weather was perfect for climbing.  It wasn't that cold and it wasn't hot either.  Our target is to reach Laban Rata (10,735 feet asl) before dark so we can eat and rest and prepare ourselves for the summit attempt.  Our guide, Kuya Jon, have climbed Kinabalu more than a thousand times already!  He told us that the average time to reach Laban Rata is 4-5 hours.  Calculating this, we said that we can probably reach the hut by 3:00-4:00 PM. 

We only brought 1 backpack with us, containing our change of clothes, jackets and toilettries.  Jay carried the backpack while I brought our hydration and trail food.  We also bought walking sticks to assist us in our climb, since there are a lot of serious 'stairs' going up (and when we say serious, we mean the whole trek is a combination of stairs, stones like stairs and huge ascending steps).

At around 12:30, we decided to stop by Pondok Mempening to eat our lunch.  By this time, we were 8262 feet ASL and we still have a long way ahead of us.  My energy is starting to wear off and was getting pretty tired.  After 30mins, we resumed our trek.

3 hours later, we were still a long way from Laban Rata and rain started to pour.  We were already at a high altitude, oxygen is getting thinner everytime we ascend, and it was getting colder and colder for every 100-meters or so.  As we make our way up, the path becomes granite so it makes going up slippery.  Good thing we have our walking sticks with us!

6:00 PM.  Drenched and tired, the yellow roofed resthouse started to appear.  We ran to the resthouse so we can find some warm shelter and have our dinner.  We approached the reception to get our keys.  We thought we can already give ourselves a rest, but the receptionist told us that our hut is at Gunting Lagadan, a few more meters up from Laban Rata *sniff*.  We decided to eat first and rest for a while before trekking to our hut, and somehow hoped that the rain will stop by then.  The buffet dinner was nice and their coffee was great.  Actually, I was quite surprised that I wasn't feeling nauseous or whatsoever at Laban Rata's altitude.  I conquered AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness)! :D

We reached our hut and headed to our room.  We shared the room with two other climbers from Italy.  We have to wake up at 2:00 in the morning for the summit attempt.  We changed to our warm clothes, put on fresh socks and a jacket a pair of gloves to keep us warm.  I was thinking whether to wait for 12mn to show Jay the video that I did for our 3rd Anniversary, but I decided that we needed to rest more, so I asked him to watch it already :)

11:00 PM.  I woke up having a terrible headache.  The headache and nausea can only mean two things.  AMS or migraine.  Either of the two will only mean one thing.  I will not be able to push through with the summit attempt!  I popped a medicine, removed my jacket and gloves, and tried to sleep again.  However, my situation didn't get any better.  If it were anything, it has gotten worst.  Jay decided to not push through with the climb anymore.  He said to me (like he always does whenever we go for a climb): "...going up is optional, going down is mandatory".  It was devastating but we both knew it was all for the best.

08 August 2011.  07:00 AM.  The nauseous feeling is still there but it was tolerable.  We packed our stuff and headed back to Laban Rata for breakfast.  Jay said to check the temperature in the view deck so we can eat our food there.  The temperature is a cuddle-weather :)  This is the closest as we can get right now to Mt. Kinabalu's summit.

When I stepped out to the view deck, there was a box on the table.  A small, pretty, wooden box.  I was speechless.  I sat there and held the little box and looking at Jay.  He said "dapat, summit gift mo yan..." and then he asked me to open it... There, in the box, was the prettiest diamond ring I have ever seen.  I was still speechless, and tears started to run down on my cheeks.  Then Jay said... "You will marry me :D", put the ring on my finger, then I said "Of course!"

After our breakfast, we started to make our way down Kota Kinabalu.  We made it just in time for lunch.  By that time, our legs were wobbly because of the steps and didn't really want to see any more stairs for the next few days.  We treated ourselves to a sumptuous meal and celebrated our 3rd Anniversary as a newly engaged couple :)

Was it tiring?  Very much!  It made every bone in our bodies ache so much we can barely stand up and walk properly.  But it was also a trip we'll do all over again.  Because on that very tiring trip, was the day when THE mountain changed us... <3


Did You Know...
Mount Kinabalu (4095m) is not the highest mountain in Southeast Asia (not even the 2nd highest!).  Currently, Hkakabo Razi (5881 m) of Kachin, Myanmar is the highest mountain in SEA.
...Now You Know :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Back Issue: Pahiyas Festival - A Way of Giving Thanks

When : 15 May 2009
Where: Lucban, Quezon, Philippines

The Girls with Kiping
My cousins invited us to witness the annual Pahiyas Festival held in their province. According to Mr. Wiki, Pahiyas Festival is celebrated every 15th day of May and is in honor of St. Isidore (San Isidro), the patron saint of farmers. During this time of the year, street of houses are adorned with agricultural products and the famous kipings. Kiping is a decor painstakingly prepared rice shaped into a leaf which can be eaten later on either by frying or grilling :D

In the duration of the festival, families would display their harvests outside creatively to let their priest bless them. Families would also compete for the title of the best decorated house, and whoever wins will give away all those fruits and vegetables as a free treat for everyone. Of course, a Filipino celebration will not be complete without a parade. The parade showcased the winners for the categories during the festival. She got to ride a carabao! :D

This joyous moment that we experienced was wonderful. The whole day walk that we did was greatly compensated by our eating the entire day. And the meals in between weren't those that one will consider as snacks. We had stuffed eggs, pancit habhab to name a few. Every house that we went to visit will serve sumptuous and mouthwatering food that only a fool can say no to.
Before heading home the following day, we stopped by Kamay Ni Hesus Shrine. The shrine is located at the slopes of Mt. Banahaw in Lucban. The church celebrates a healing mass by the renowned healing priest Fr. Joey Faller. You will also see the 200+ step hill with life size figures depicting the 14 stations of the cross. Upon reaching the top, you will see a huge statue of Jesus Christ. This is a good place to commemorate the Passion of Christ.
To end a weekend trip, we treated ourselves to a nice mais-con-hielo :D yum!

PS: View complete photos here :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back Issue: Hard Rockin' Bali

Date:  June 04-06 2010
Destination:  Bali, Indonesia

We joined the post summer get-away of our Kaladkarin friends.  We originally wanted to avail the free and easy package (3D2N Hard Rock Bali) from Take Me To Travel.  The package inclusions are as follows:
R Two-way airfare (SIN-DPS-SIN) via Qatar Airways
R Return airport transfers
R 2 nights stay @ Hard Rock Hotel
R Welcome bucket (beer/softdrink)
R Head and Shoulder massage (30mins)
R 15% off F&B, spa treatment and all merchandises

Unfortunately, there were no available seats for the Qatar flight.  We decided to book our own flight and avail their Land Package instead (everything above, minus the plane transfers :P)

When we arrived, we headed first to the money exchanger in the airport.  The conversion from SGD to IDR is 1:6,400.  We literally were millionaires in Indonesia! :D Hard Rock Hotel (HRH) was a place to fall in love with.  Their halls were categorized as Blue, Jazz, Reggae, etc. :)

We tried to learn how to surf for IDR 350,000 (for two pax) and they will teach you until you can stand up on the waves on your own.  Unfortunately for her (pilyamaldita), she was only able to do a few-second successful attempt.  But that was not the case for him (jaykul), as he was able to conquer the wave on his 2nd attempt \m/

Since Kuta beach is the surfer's paradise, it was not really that fun to swim into.  So we all decided to head to the pool and we had the best pool chillax (pool bar, sand pool, waterfalls, water sports, etc.).  Of course, this travel will not be complete without a SHOP-TILL-YOU-DROP activity ;-)

Their local beer, BINTANG is something you shouldn't miss trying as well!

The getaway was short.  But we got to live like rockstars!  Hard Rock Bali is


Photo credits to Leo :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Big Two!

August 08, 2008
They became an official 'couple' when the Beijing Olympics was opened (hence, the name of the site :P).  As itchy as their soles could ever be, they decided that every year, they will have a "quality time" trip together (domestic or international) to celebrate their hatching days and their anniversary.  Their first plan for an anniversary trip was a backpacking trip to Bicol.  

August 08, 2009
...and the backpacking trip did not materialize... It didn't work out because he had to go to Singapore for a work trip.  
But when the universe conspires, there will be a way.  A week before their anniversary, she booked her ticket to Singapore for two reasons, and one of them is to celebrate their first year anniversary together.

August 04, 2010
Thailand Itinerary
Our much awaited trip has finally arrived!  After months and months of saving, planning, and 3 sets of itinerary, we were ready to hit Thailand.  We created a tracker to ensure that the things we planned to do will be within our "budget".  This is how our IT looked like (we purposely removed the amount :)) --->

As we were packing our stuff, the room was a COMPLETE disaster :P  We were putting stuff out of the closet here and there and all the clothes and other things are everywhere!  By 3am and without any place to sleep, here was our checklist:

  • Dive Equipments - R
  • Swim wear (bathers and board shorts) - R
  • 5-day summer clothes - R
  • Passports and passes - R
  • Toiletries and sunblock - R
  • Pocket money - R
After "cleaning up" the room, we hit the sack and put our restless souls to rest even for a few hours.

August 05, 2010
Our flight bound to Phuket, Thailand was scheduled to depart at 1315.  We headed to the airport at 1000 so we will have ample time to roam around Changi.   Before we checked in our luggage, we had our giant equipment duffel bag wrapped by SecureBag for additional safety.  After wrapping, it looked like a giant green blob :P

After checking in, we bought coffee from Starbucks and had our brunch outside our boarding gate (coffee + blueberry strudel is **love**).

Upon arriving in Phuket International Airport, a local telco provider (true move) booth was giving away free sim cards!  We got 2 for both of us, topped up one of them with SG$4.00 and we went our way out to meet our driver who will take us to Club Andaman in Phuket :)

Phuket Accommodation
We stayed in Phuket for a night for one sole purpose... to BUNGY JUMP! We didn't even had the opportunity to take advantage of the hotel amenities neither swim in the infamous Patong Beach.  After checking in the hotel, we changed our clothes and headed off to Jungle Bungy Jump. We originally planned to walk from the Hotel to the jump off area because we thought it was only a kilometre away from where we were staying. It's a good thing we decided to ride the "modernized" tuk tuk because apparently, it was 20mins away by tuktuk!

Upon arriving in Khatu, she was actually undecided whether to jump or not from a platform attached to a 50m crane (pre-jumping jitters). See the following photos to know what happened next :)


After jumping and receiving our CERTIFICATE OF COURAGE, we headed for Thai dinner @ Patong Beach while we waited for the sunset. :)  No shopping was done at this point because this was just the appetizer of our entire trip.  We will be transferring to Phi Phi Island the following day :)
August 06-08, 2010

We woke up a tad early so we can still do some photoshoot around the area after breakfast.  One particular thing that caught our attention were the Tsunami Evacuation signage.  We did some jumpshots and took some photos of the hotel before heading back to the concierge to wait for our transportation to Ao Po Grand Marina pier where the Phi Phi Island Resort boat will take us to our next destination, Phi Phi Island! :D

Phi Phi Island Resort & Spa offers a 5-star service!  We were treated like spoiled royalties (from the pickup from the hotel to the pier to the resort's private speedboat to the resort itself!) Winner na winner!  Here are some snapshots of how SMOOOTTTHHH the trip went :)

Phi Phi Island Resort & Spa is a secluded resort located in Phi Phi Island itself.  That means, no shops, limited restaurant options, quiant, and quiet.  The resort is about 30 minutes from Ton Sai Bay by Long Tail Boat.

Long Tail Boat
We stayed at Phi Phi for 3 days.  Talk about major major relaxation :)  We had buffet by the beach on the first night and Italian buffet on the second (with live band).   The infinity pool is awesome.  It was paradise!
On our 2nd day, we went diving with the resort's inhouse dive centre.  We wanted to dive at Shark

Shore of Phi Phi Island Resort
Point and King Cruiser Wreck but  unfortunately, the sea condition was rough on the northern part of Phi Phi. They brought us in Phi Ley wall and Bida Nok instead, which by the way wasn't a disappointment.  We saw 2 sharks despite the strong strong current cradling us left and right! :) The Phi Ley wall initially had a low visibility and a strong current but the condition got better in the middle of our dive session. Free drinks, free lunch and free fruits!
Maya Bay, a.k.a The Beach is also located in Phi Phi.  We weren't lucky enough to make a trip to this area because of the rough sea condition.  Hopefully we'll come back soon and make a trip to this beautiful lagoon :)

Later in the afternoon, we booked for a 1.5hr Siamese massage spa session.  It was relaxation at its best.  He was a bit ticklish though ;))  Here are some of the island's photos that we took during our stay.

August 08 - 09, 2010

August 08 2010... we turned two years!! :)  This is the last part of our Thailand vacation.  Our last stop: Krabi, Thailand!  At 1300, we were sent to Ton Sai Bay where we rode the boat to Railay Bay.  The transfer was not as smooth as what we had from Phuket to Phi Phi Island but it was okay nonetheless.  We were just too pampered during our previous transfers ;))

The main boat stopped in front of Railay bay, a few hundred metres from the bay itself.  We took a long tail boat to drop us off nearer the bay, however, we had to walk a few more metres, carrying our luggages on top of our heads to reach the resort because it was low tide.  It was a bit of a hassle but once we saw our room, all the ranting was gone :D  It was huge and beautiful!

We stayed at Railay Bay Resort & Spa and stayed in their suite.  It was near the pool and overlooking the sea and the limestones :).  However, just like in Phuket, we weren't able to take advantage of the resort's amenities because we were only staying for a night.

Krabi is every rock climber's paradise.  True enough, the limestones are just gorgeous.  You can see guys and girls alike climbing each and every rock available.  We actually wanted to try rock climbing as well in Krabi but we didn't have time to do so since we arrived later than what we have planned.
We did some shopping in Krabi.  On our way to Krabi International Airport, our driver was nice enough to drop us off in the Outlet Shop first to do some shopping :D  We were able to buy some bags and shorts :D 

Overall, Thailand is a wonderful country, full of friendly and warm Thai people.  We certainly would come back and repeat this wonderful experience :)

Kap Kun Kha! Kap Kun Krub!

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