Tag Archives: Travel

The best day hike yet: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

We must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril – to Modor.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Perilous it was for the hobbits but not so much for us humans. Even for inexperienced hikers like LF and myself. The 20 km trek through Modor to Mt Doom across the Tongariro National Park offers the most amazing and varied views in one hike, thus making it the best hike yet, for me.

Our transportation to and fro was arranged by our accommodation, Adventure Motel, which included an early, and very important, hearty breakfast and two scheduled pick ups where the hike ends at Ketetahi carpark.

Foggy start at about 8AM along a relatively flat and easy path/board walk from the Mangatepopo Carpark to Soda Springs. Also where you would find a row of portable toilets, the first and last toilet stop for a long while.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Everyone started out in layers and a thick outer coat which we ended up shedding layer by layer until we could shed no more by the time we reached Soda Spring. The section from Soda Spring to South Crater was an absolute killer, climbing from 1400m to 1600m. At one point where the steps were really steep, I had to stop for a couple of seconds almost every 5 steps up to ease the burning in my thighs. *cough inexperience hiker*. In my defense, Singapore is an extremely flat island.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Just when I thought my thighs could take it no more, we finally arrived at the bottom of Mt Doom where our party of four parted ways. Frodo and Sam left to ascend Mt Doom in their endeavour to destroy the One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them , One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

While LF and I continued on across the South Crater which in reality is not a crater but a basin. I suppose crossing the South Crater really does sound cooler than crossing the South Basin. This shot was taken after we had cross the South Crater, which is basically the expanse of flat brown land you see in the shot, and climbed on loose scoria up to the exposed ridge.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Said ridge in shot below. Also, AMAZING VIEWS and my favorite blue skies!

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Moving on along the ridge and the view on our right.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Until we arrived at the Red Crater.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Taking a well deserved short break. Short break because we were worried we wouldn’t be able to complete the hike in time for the second pick up and also because we were spurred on by the lady at our accommodation who mentioned that Asians don’t usually make it for the first pick up. The sun was shining down on us but the wind was absolutely brutal.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

The view of the sacred Blue Lake from the Red Crater.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Starting our steep descend down to the ridiculously picturesque, albeit stinky, Emerald Lakes.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

This portion of the trek was one where we were reminded, prior to the trek, to concentrate on each step down and NOT to take photos unless at a complete stop as it was a steep descend on loose scoria.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Past the Emerald Lakes.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Past the blue lake and a short climb to the edge North Crater across a flat expanse towards Ketetahi Hut.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Round the mountains with spectacular views over Mt Pihanga and Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

The long and winding path down to the final section of the trek, the forest section.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

We no longer stopped for a break not just because we didn’t know how long more it would take for us to complete it but because we could barely get our legs moving again after a short stop.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

On and on we go, having our lunch on the go.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

The forest section! Finally out of the Active Volcanic Hazard Zone into safety and what we hoped was almost the end.

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Maybe after the next turn?

New Zealand - Tongariro Crossing

Many turns later, we made it to the Ketetahi Carpark in time for the first pick up! Much to the surprise of our accommodation owners and us. That said, we were the last of the group from our accommodation to arrive at the end despite being comparably young AND without a lunch break.

At least for a while,’ said Elrond. ‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.

Daytripping from Barcelona: Hiking Rec del Solà in Andorra

Andorra la Vella, Rec del Solà 1

Contrary to a few negative reviews on daytripping to Andorra, more specifically Andorra la Vella, capital of the Principality of Andorra, I personally felt that it was totally worth it. The highlights for me were the view enroute from Barcelona, hiking Rec del Solà and getting a super cheap percolator there (in comparison to prices in Asia).

We started the hike from the entrance along Carrer Les Canals which can be easily located with the help of Google Maps.

Andorra la Vella, Rec del Solà 4

Slight elevation at the start and thereafter, mostly flat on a very well establish path.

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Seriously awesome views on a sunny day.

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Andorra la Vella, Rec del Solà 3

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There are a number of paths and exits along the way. Unfortunately due to the time constraint of a day trip and being irrationally afraid of the dark, we ended our walk where the established path ended and headed back down to the city.

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Andorra la Vella, Rec del Solà 8

And we’re back!

Solo travel – I finally did it!

So, I’ve finally crossed solo travel off my bucket list! Truly, when you want something bad enough, the entire universe conspires to make it happen for you. Kind of. You do have to jump at the opportunity yourself.

This isn’t the first time I’ve traveled alone since I’ve done so a couple of times for work, especially in the past two years. But this was my first time, going on a vacation alone. It was truly a relaxing and fun vacation for me.

Since it was my first solo trip, I was looking to go somewhere safe (it was between Switzerland and New Zealand) and Switzerland seemed like the best choice! Print screen from my iPhoto places.

Places I've been to in Switzerland

What I didn’t quite like about solo travel:

– No one to share food with!

Since I’ve a relatively small appetite, its all I could do to finish off a main course. No appetizers and no desserts. Or no mains, just desserts (HA). Especially in Switzerland where it is literally impossible to finish off half a french loaf and 5 baked potatoes which came with a cheese fondue for one!

Swiss fondue for one at Bussalp Restaurant (potatoes not photographed). The owner gave me a weird look when I ordered it while this lovely old couple sitting beside me kept staring at me while I ate too. Do people not eat cheese fondue alone?

Swiss Fondue at Bussalp Restaurant

– No one to share my excitement with.

I had the most amazing experience walking around St Moritz randomly. Saw this huge flat piece of snow covered land which I assumed was a park since there were quite a few people taking slow walks with their dogs. While walking on it, I decided to check out Lake St Moritz since i recalled it being somewhere close by. It was there and then, when Google Maps informed me that I was walking ON the lake (apparently frozen and covered in snow). Of course, I instinctively wanted to run (as lightly as possible) back to the ground but after I got over that, I felt super excited but had no one to share my excitement with. Thank god for Steve, iMessage, Whatsapp and 4G. Hahahaha.

Lake St Moritz, Switzerland

– Accommodation gets a little pricey if you’re not open to hostels or single rooms with a shared bathroom (which I’m not). I haven’t had any experience staying in hostels and I wasn’t keen to experience that alone.

– Safety. To be honest, I’m not sure how much the safety factor increases when you travel with a partner. But psychologically, I do feel safer with someone beside me.

What I loved about it!

– Complete and utter freedom! You and you alone, call the shots! No matter how accommodating your travel partner (LF is totally accommodating), nothing compares to the freedom from traveling alone. There are days when I have absolutely nothing planned, I wake up, check the weather of a couple of places, check the routes and depending on train schedule, sometimes jump out of bed and make a mad rush for the train. Random walks, abrupt change of plans and decisions to skip “places of interest”.

I made a (regretful) decision to walk 2 hours (according to wiki travel) through Unterseen to Neuhaus to check out a lake when I should have gotten a bike but it was my decision and I didn’t have to worry that someone else was suffering because of my decision. Although, the start of the walk was rather enjoyable.

Random walk around Interlaken, Switzerland

– You tend to be more observant to your surroundings rather than walking around blindly while chattering on with your travel partner. I love observing people on the streets, their facial expressions and gestures while wondering (and making up my own version) about their lives. Plus, I get to practice my (non existent) french by listening to the conversations around me.

– After being alone for a while, you tend to be slightly more sociable no matter how socially awkward you are. This is a huge step out for me. I absolutely love (no matter how awkward I feel) learning about the lives of others and how starkly different our ways, culture and thinking are! Without someone by your side, your focus is entirely on the person you’ve just met, listening to their experience and asking questions. So much to learn from!

Train buddies (from London) who made the ride on the Glacier Express more enjoyable with their ton of snacks!

Train buddies onboard the Glacier Express, Switzerland

I have also encountered plenty of super nice people who would offer to take photos of me when I’m randomly taking photos of the place. There was an old lady to so kindly offered to take a shot of me and ended up taking 114 photos (in burst mode) all at once. Too many choices! Hurhur.

I do feel quite accomplished after this trip. It was a good start and a safe first solo trip. I do think I could have done more, be more adventurous, talk to more people and what not, but all in all, it was great!

To be honest, I don’t actually have a preference for solo travel but I guess I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if I had to (especially if it was just too troublesome to coordinate everyone’s schedule).

In conclusion, I DID IT (I did take a selfie with Frosty!)! *Pats self on shoulder*

Selfie with Frosty, Grindelwald, Switzerland

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

Doing up a post on skydiving mainly cause I’ve paid 180SGD for a series of unglam shots and of course, I’ve to make full use of the photos. So Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and my blog. Am I missing anywhere else?

I’m a little half hearted here cause I’m also trying to figure out what to do at Zermatt over the next two days. Apparently, nothing. I guess I’ll be sitting at cafes/by the balcony enjoying the car free city. Oh, build a snowman. Maybe check out the igloo village.

Anyway, skydiving. Really glad to finally check this off my bucket list. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I was a little nervous on the car ride to the helicopter but was just too busy checking out the helicopter as I stepped on and too mesmerised by the view at 14 000 feet to be afraid. Hehehehe.

Blessed with amazing blue skies on that day. Pick up arrived at my hotel at 12 and we headed down to the skydive centre where we signed our lives away, paid for it, did 1 min of tummy time (the position we’re to be in when free falling), another minute on lifting out legs up for landing and we were ready!

That’s me all geared up in a nice orange overall.

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

My ride up. Also my first time on a helicopter! Killing two birds with one stone! I’m guessing that’s my “I’m flying” pose. Hahahaha.

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

Up up and away. Seriously, GoPro fisheye effects are just NOT flattering la. Still, 180SGD, must post!

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

Preparing to jump! How can anyone not be mesmerised by the view. Way above the top of Europe (Jungfraujoch, in case anyone is wondering)?!

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

And we jump! Falling at 200km/hr (woohoo!!). Tony taps my shoulder and shouts at me to look at the camera. Victory pose! Why are my eyes so small?

Skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland

Check out that windblown hair and my facial fats getting an au naturale massage.

Skydiving at Interlaken, Switzerland

Parachute successfully deployed! I WILL SURVIVE!

Skydiving at Interlaken, Switzerland

Hanging out. Literally. And pretending that I’m controlling the parachute.

Skydiving at Interlaken, Switzerland

Then we spin around just for the fun of it.

Skydiving at Interlaken, Switzerland

And we land safely on our butts.

Skydiving at Interlaken, Switzerland

The first thing that came to mind upon landing was, god my ears are frozen. Hahahaha.

And that is my first ever skydiving experience. I can’t wait to do it again! No concrete plans but I’m hoping to work something out and get my skydiving license in Spain!

Oh boy, its way past my bedtime!

Over and out. 9.50PM.

 

Morning train ride up Üetliberg

Tofu waiting for the train at Üetliberg, Zurich, SwitzerlandI am so envious of people living in Zurich where they can do morning hikes up Üetliberg before heading off to work. One mountain, countless trails! The plan was to hike up in the morning but since it was too slippery in winter, we took the train, S10, up and had really awesome coffee.

The walk up from the train station.

Üetliberg, Zurich, Switzerland

The view of Lake Zurich from the lookout tower (the wind was crazy cold).

Üetliberg, Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich old town, where I was the day before.

Üetliberg, Zurich, Switzerland

This would be a great spot for a game of chess or a simple meal. If only my ears weren’t freezing.

Üetliberg, Zurich, Switzerland

My trusty travel buddy waiting for the train back to Zurich HB. Lucky for him, he didn’t have to worry about his ears getting frozen since he has none to begin with. 😛

Tofu waiting for the train at Üetliberg, Zurich, Switzerland

My favorite city yet, Lucerne!

I’ve only been to three cities (in three days!) in Switzerland so far but Lucerne is currently at the top of the list.

The GORGEOUS view from just about 100 metres (this is random since I’ve completely no gauge of 100 metres but it sounds appropriate. HA) out of the station.

On my right, Lake Lucerne surrounded by the Alps. On a side note, I can’t wait to hit the swiss alps!

Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

On my left, the Chapel Bridge.

The Chapel Bridge, Lucerne, Switzerland

I absolutely couldn’t wait to take a long walk by the lake. And walk I did (after a very expensive and delicious lunch).

Here comes the hard part, picking out the photos for this post. This is gonna take a while.

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Photos below taking with my beloved iPhone 5S, unedited.

 

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Walking by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

<3

Touched down in Zurich!

Limmatquai, Zurich, Switzerland

I know right, what a boring title. This is my favorite shot from today.

Anyway, highlight of the day was definitely lunch with Yumi! Tried rabbit pie (rabbit meat actually) for the first time ever! YUCK. I wasn’t sure if it was the weird taste of rabbit meat or the ton of carrots that came with it, it might have been a psychological aversion as well. First bite and the last for sure.

And I finally went down the slide at the Zurich office! Lunch time is definitely not the ideal time since you would land awkwardly right in front of a bunch of people having lunch. Then again, they are probably used to it. Hurhur.

Slide at Google Zurich

Random photos from my random walk after lunch.

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

I really liked how peaceful and quiet the city was plus the weather was perfect.

And now (9pm) is time for me to get my 8 hours of sleep. Till tomorrow!

Streets of Taipei

How quickly the days go by. With a blink of an eye, 2014 is here. No time for procrastination. This year is gonna be a great one!

Anyway, random street shots of Taipei.

This is my absolute favorite street shot from the trip. Had to take it in a hurry cause the traffic lights changed really quickly and the only way I could get a good shot was to stand in the middle of the road. I realized that it does take patience to take good shots.

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Early morning at Ximending when the stores have yet to open.

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One of the smaller streets leading out from Ximending.

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Since we weren’t able to check in to our accommodations, we decided to make the best of our early start and headed over to Yong Siak Street to check out the popular cafes we read about online. It was a pretty easy walk getting from Ximending to Yong Siak Street (managed to convince my sis to walk since we were early) and we even managed to check out the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial hall. Yong Siak street, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The street itself and the surrounding streets where the good food is located is incredibly hard to navigate. Even the locals were confused. We did meet really nice people who went out of the way to help us. Like the chef of a bakery who couldn’t get a 3G signal on his hp in the kitchen so he walked out of the cafe just to Google directions for us.

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Pedestrian path on a tiny lane.

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All these thinking about the walking is exhausting. More on the food some other time then. Hurhur.

On a random note. The best way to keep your sim card safe when you change to a local sim card is to simply tape your existing card to your phone or phone case.

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There, safe and sound.

Cite de Carcassonne – Third time’s the charm.. not really

France, Cité de Carcassonne

In the midst of uploading a ton of photos on to Flickr. So here’s more of France, specifically Carcassonne.

It was really out of the way but it was the only place that LF (because he played the game and made it a point to play that game while he was there) had requested so we had to make a trip there. It was totally worth it, one of our favorite towns. Then again, we did liked most of the towns we visited.

We arrived at Carcassonne in the late afternoon to super awesome weather, not too cold with clear blue skies. Checked in and made our way to Cite de Carcassonnee but decided to spend a full day exploring the cite the next day instead. Wrong move. It rained for the next 2 days that we were there. All in all, we made 4 attempts to explore the cite in 3 days and finally went ahead despite the rain.

This was taken when on the day we arrived. Beautiful clear blue skies.

France, Carcassonne

We paid to enter the chateau, watched a film on the history of the fortified city and took a walk around the ramparts imagining that we were soldiers on patrol in a bid to protect our beloved city and its people. Well, the video had my imagination run wild.

France, Carcassonne

France, Cité de Carcassonne

Cité de Carcassonne, France

Just realized that I don’t take many photos when it rains. Figures.

 

THE Colosseum

Right at the top of my to go places in Italy. It was every bit as impressive as what I’ve imagine and I could totally replay the scenes in books there and then.

The exterior of the colosseum. On a side note, Rome is absolutely gorgeous and unlike other cities that I’ve been though. Gorgeous buildings and ruins just about everywhere, it is truly a city teeming with history.

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There arena has 2 entrances, the Northwest gate, Porta Triumphalis where the gladiators entered alive and the Southeast gate, Porta Libitinaria where the dead are being carried/dragged out. The video tour never did mention about where the triumphant gladiators would exit. I assume Porta Triumphalis. Although, it was just a matter of time before it was their turn to leave by Porta Libitinaria.

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The arena was also covered with sand to absorb the blood of the injured as the bloodshed often made the arena too slippery for gladiators to put up an entertaining fight. I’m guessing they weren’t into comedies then.

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Though not obvious from the pictures (at least to me), the colosseum is 5 stories high where seats were distributed according to social rank. No surprises here. The senators were of course on the first floor closest to the action where they sat on marble seats with their names engraved. When they died or were no longer senators, their names would be crossed out and engraved with the name of the next person who got their seat.

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Gladiators and animals were hidden from sight under the arena until it was their turn to entertain the crowd. I somehow imagine gladiators living there in tiny rooms while reading but I guess I was wrong. They lived at gladiator schools.

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Interestingly, the marble that was used to build the colosseum was later removed at the order of later popes to build St. Peter’s Basilica. I did wonder which parts when I was at the church. Given how magnificent the colosseum looked in ruins, I can only imagine how spectacular it must have been build during its glorious days. I do wonder why no one thought of building a structure of that magnitude today. Probably cause it is more profitable building skyscrapers.

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Ending with an edited shot of the colosseum. What I cannot imagine is why people then would see bloodshed as a form of entertainment.

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