Exploring Himachal Pradesh: Our toughest trip yet.

It was about 4 years ago when I saw an ads at the back of some airline’s seats, it was a picture of a dreamy winter wonderland, called Himachal Pradesh, situated in the north India, just at the foot of the Himalayan mountains.

You know sometimes we see a beautiful place in a picture and decided to put in in out list? This is one of those moments.

Bandi and I spared 2 weeks to explore Himachal Pradesh, the longest trip we have this year! We initially planned to fly in to New Delhi, but the price was just ridiculous; so thankfully we have our beloved Scoot, which offers flights to Amritsar for only $300 return! Off we went!

Himachal Pradesh is unquestionably beautiful, with snowy mountains surrounding you, everything was magical there. But, this trip is exhausting, it will drain you like no other trip! Oxygen level was thinner, roads are tough (I’m talking about car sick, like serious car sick), and if you go during winter, weather can be harsh. Bandi and I crown this trip as our toughest trip yet. It’s not about the temperature degree per se, we’ve been to sub-zero places before but this gotta be the harshest because most of Indian houses were not built for winter, it was cold in and out of the house.

If you decided to go, let’s talk about some planning. I chose to talk about technical part of the trip because I reaaaaally think it’s the most important part for this one. Well, not so many people know Himachal Pradesh and want to go there. Even when I was planning for it, I couldn’t find a decent amount of blog posts about it, most of the tourists are local tourists so very limited source of ideas from a foreigner perspective.

i) Plan your route and budget

Your first priority should be your route, so you can book hotels/airbnb and then look for driver. Since I planned to spend time in New Delhi and Agra the first 2 days in India, my route is from New Delhi and back to Amritsar. So here’s my route:

New Delhi to Kalka – by Train (2,380 rupees / 4 hours)

Kalka to Shimla – by heritage Train, The Himalayan Queen (520 rupees / 5 hours)

Shimla to Manali – by car (we started to hire driver at our last day in Shimla) (7 hours)

Manali to Dharamsala – by car (7 hours)

Dharamsala to Dalhousie – by car (4 hours)

Dalhousie to Amrtisar – by car (4 hours) (Total cost for 9 days booking a driver and car is 16,000 rupees)

Once you have your route fixed, book your driver (I book it from here, they’re very helpful and the service is good. Email address is: himachaltaxitours@gmail.com) and book your accommodation.

I did a lot of research on our drivers, compared quotation prices and asked my Indian friend to call them asking about the company; and I didn’t regret my decision making. Another point to highlight is to get a local Himachal drivers who knows their way to drive in Himachal (t’s a different world out there) and this company is based in Shimla.

ii) Hire a driver

Himachal Pradesh is hilly region, and the only way you can explore from one town to the other is by car. But remember this, no matter how good your driving skill is, DO NOT SELF DRIVE. Just book a driver + car, it’s not worth the risk and the energy; the region is a totally different world for a driver, even if you’re used to driving in mountainous area, in India, people drive like they’re inside Fast and Furious movie all the time. Indian drivers are crazy awesome, man!

Bandi and I love to do road trips, we mostly drive anywhere we go if possible, and this time we skip it because of advices from locals. Now that we have gone there, we are giving the same advice.

iii) Apply a visa

One of the annoying about holding third-world passport is getting visa to go almost everywhere, including India. To give you contacts, Indonesian used to have a visa-on-arrival scheme, but not anymore. :(

Please be patience with the visa website because it will crash a couple of times, and after talking with friends who went to India with visa as well, this happened to them too. And oh boy, did they ask you soooo many questions, including your grandpa’s name. I hope you do remember your granpa and give him a call today! :D

You can click here to apply for India visa.

iv) Pre-purchase Indian Sim Card in your home country

I don’t know if this option is available in all countries, but I know this is available in Singapore. At first we didn’t understand why Changi airport offered this, why don’t we just but it in India? It’s gonna be cheaper, isn’t it?

It turns out, you can’t just buy a sim card in India. We got rejected so many times because they needed local guarantor to sign up for a sim card. Of all the countries we have travelled to, this is the first time we couldn’t get a sim card. In India, everything is based on relationship, this is indeed true.

The other option is to buy it in Airport, however again, we couldn’t get the sim card because the seller told us it’s sold out. Really?

v) Understanding India

If this is your first time going to India, I suggest to read up some cultural information about India so you won’t do something funny there. Cows are sacred, don’t ask for a beef burger in their McDonalds, that would be ridiculous. Minimize PDA (public display affection), tipping anybody that serves you; these are some of the key points that I remember. Just be as mindful and respectful as possible. Bandi told me India is the one country where he felt the most un-describeable energy. You’ll understand when you’re there. India is indeed magical.

If you still have some questions about your planning, you may leave a comment below of message me via facebook. I hope I can help. :)

And now, here are some interesting points from our trip that hopefully can give you ideas:

  • India is now joining Bandi and May’s list of “Country where we never had bad food at”; following Thailand and Japan. We love spices and India didn’t fail us on spicing up our palette, we were looking forward for every meal, whether it’s street food or buffet in the hotel, every meal is delicious! We had the best home cooked meal during our airbnb stay in Dalhousie and Bandi couldn’t help but finishing everything!
  • Indian people put Masala on all food and drinks; seriously you name it. They put Masala on hash brown, sausage, french fries, Lays, tea, coffee, candy, everything! So if you don’t like spices, probably a bad idea to visit India.
  • People are generally nice. I know there are a lot of bad media about traveling to India, but we’ve met a lot of good people and people asked to take pictures with us just because we look different; which I found innocently funny at first (but more irritated with the stares.) Keep your scepticism whenever you travel, but be open with kindness. We’ve troubled a lot of people during our runaway to Banikhet and we were so grateful to meet good people.
  • Animals are even nicer! This is the thing I love the most about India!!! I looooovveeee animals, and in India, you find them EVERYWHERE. Dogs, monkeys, cows, horses, donkeys, yaks, sheeps, they’re roaming around the street; and the best we’ve ever encountered is… wait for it… ELEPHANT! Yes, a f***ing elephant walking in the busy road of New Delhi. I’m serious. People will just nonchalantly avoiding the animals but everyone and everything are living together in harmony.
  • I’m disappointed that the real romance in India doesn’t involve dancing and singing in the rain. Growing up watching dancing scene of Sharukh Khan, I thought people in India literally dance on the road when they’re in love. But not even once we witness this in our 2 weeks life in India, not even one flashmob.
  • The only negative part: India is filthy and messy; and this is coming from an Indonesian. And it’s not “organized messy” like in Hanoi, it’s chaotic messy! It’s messy and filthy. You won’t know the real filth til you see slums in India. We passed by slums in the outskirt of Agra and they have tough life, seriously. Rubbish are everywhere; even in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, you still see piles of rubbish. I had to google about waste management problem in India because it really bothered me, and can you believe most of big cities in India had up to 2000% of waste increase in the last 15 years and the infrastructure couldn’t catch up with that. The good thing is: we never receive plastic bag in India. Starting this year it has been banned (at least in the north?) and we only received either paper bags or cloth bags.
  • I need to highlight Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is REMARKABLE. I seriously thought it’s gonna be overrated, but holy cow… it’s one magnificent well-thought building full of details!!!IMG_8860
  • Shimla has one of the best sunset view in the world. Hands down.IMG_7363
  • Dharamshala is a must visit, learn about Dalai Lama’s flee from Tibet, it’s very intriguing! #freetibet
  • Amritsar is just 45 minutes away from Lahore, Pakistan. If you intended to visit Amritsar, might as well as apply for Pakistani visa and visit Lahore. We regret we didn’t plan it well and have visa beforehand, otherwise it would be another amazing experience. You’re welcome.
  • And since you’re in Amritsar, you would want to visit the Golden Temple, it’s the pilgrimage place for Sikhsm. To be honest, I didn’t even know about Sikhsm at all until I came to visit and it was very interesting. They are welcoming people to understand their religion, you can see how people travel so far to visit he holy tree and to bathe in the holy water.IMG_7703

Like always, I hope my travel post can inspire you to… GO. :)

I know traveling is not always fun, sometimes we suffer during our trip, but everything is part of the experiences, part of learning, part of growing up to be a better and wiser person.

Cheers,

May, coming back stronger.

The beautiful doors of Bodrum

Strolling in a beautiful seaside town of Bodrum, I couldn’t help but adoring the beautiful doors of Bodrum. Yes, aside of its beautiful landscape of hilly town, view of amazing Aegean sea, white houses and colorful flowers, Bodrum has beautiful doors. This town is like the more creative and less pretentious cousin of Santorini; it is in fact only apart by Aegean sea to Santorini. You may sail there and combine Turkey trip with Greece trip! :)

There is nothing specific to do in Bodrum for me rather than chilling and relaxing. In the summer, people probably flock the town, but since it was Autumn when I visited, with not so many beach activity available, the town was sleepy and calm. I was really surprised by how empty Bodrum was, and it was not even cold! Seriously, I personally think it was the best time to visit!

Although I personally enjoy Bodrum, I realized that Bodrum is much more expensive comparing to other Turkish cities. This is probably because Bodrum caters for European market and is a perfect summer holiday. Just like Bali is waaay more expensive than the other Indonesian cities now and some places even have USD in the price-list.

Apart from that, it’s totally a perfect place for holiday, to just chill and drink wine by the sea. Bodrum city centre is full of so many restaurants and bars, but we found a gem, which is a burger house called mEAT. The price is not expensive and the burger is honestly one of the best burgers we’ve ever had! Pay a visit if you’re there and say hi to the cats and dogs! :D

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Bodrum also will always be a place I remember because it was where I first learned how to drive a car! Yaiy! I felt bad because Bandi has always been the one who drive during our road trips, and we LOVE road trip. Seriously, we REALLY LOVE road trip; the only thing we love more is cheap flight tickets. :D

And since we’re planning for our epic road trip, I’m starting to learn how to drive a car, so I could help Bandi. :)

I took some pictures of the beautiful doors of Bodrum hoping it could inspire you to visit this lovely town, because it is indeed worth detouring.

Bonus: Side trip to Ephesus

If you’re into archeological site, this place is A MUST! Ephesus is a huge ancient city in Turkey, the only place that can top this is probably Rome. You may visit Ephesus from Bodrum, which is 2 and half hour drive, or from Izmir, which is 1 hour drive, if you rent a car. If you don’t have your own car, you may follow day tour from either cities.

To sum up the series of Turkey posts, I would like to highlight how underrated Turkey is. Turkey is usually overshadowed by the other European countries, but I personally feel Turkey offers so much more! Turkey is much cheaper comparing to the other European countries, and for Indonesian (and assuming other countries too), you don’t need to apply visa to visit, e-visa is done within 5 minutes! People are friendly in Turkey, food is delicious (especially their breakfast, oh god), and their stray dogs are fluffy and friendly! :D

So? GO!

Cheers,

Mei, plotting the next trip.

The magical Cappadocia

When my Egypt trip was cancelled and Qatar was no longer flying there, Bandi and I looked for alternative only to find much more expensive tickets to Cairo, so we ended up googling other destinations, cheaper ones. We found Cappadocia as very attractive from the photos, but we were a bit skeptic coz sometimes people enhance the photos so extremely it became unreal. However, we decided to book tickets to Istanbul kinda last minute (because of the cancelled trip). Our main destination was Cappadocia, we even thought to skip Istanbul so we spend much more time in Cappadocia, thank god we didn’t do that.

Cappadocia is small! 4 days 3 nights is a perfect length for Cappadocia, seriously. We did everything we could do! We went on hot air balloon ride (the one that everyone said is a must), we did horseback riding for 2.5 hours chasing for sunset, we went for hiking and we even slept in 2 different towns, Goreme and Ortahisar.

I wouldn’t repeat talking about Cappadocia in this blog post because I created a vlog for it in my youtube channel. If you’re interested to visit Cappadocia, it’s very essential and informative to watch!

Even if you’re not, please subscribe to Bay Travels! I will try my best to create more videos on my travel. Sometimes I’m just sooo lazy, but I’ll try to be better. :)

Cheers,

May, missing the magic already.

Chasing Waterfalls

I experienced something new again last weekend! I went canyoneering for the first time in Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines! The trek was 10.5 kilometres full of walking, swimming, jumping, and hiking ended with this beautiful Kawasan waterfalls.

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Unfortunately I didn’t take so many pictures that day because I was too busy surviving not to die (am not a daredevil like so many people think I am), so I hope the story of Kawasan Falls will still convince you to go despite lack of pretty photos. So here we go…

We arrived at Cebu last weekend and we hired a local transport to bring us to Moalboal. The trip took about 3 hours because of the bad road and traffic. We stayed in Parrot Resort and we asked the receptionist about what activities to do (we didn’t do any homework about Cebu obviously) and was recommended to do full day canyoneering with an adventure tour called Cyan Adventure, which turned to be a very good idea. Shout out to Mark, our friendly guide!

We paid for 3,450 pesos (equivalent to S$100) for the full gear (wet suit, boots, life vest, helmet), transport from and to our resort, and meal. There were 10 other guests going with us that day, which ended up becoming our friends, what a wonderful gift of travel, making new friends.

The adventure started around 9 am with one hour rough and bumpy road trip to Badian Canyon area. After parking the multi cab (van that’s used for public transport in Philippines), the guides paid our entrance fee and then we started hiking for good 20 minutes then we were approaching the forestry and starting going down to our first water dip, ahhhh it felt so good, the water was cold!

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Riding the multi cab

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The start of the trek

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The first dip felt so good after long sunny hike!

It was pure awesomeness from there, 3 hours full of walking, swim, slide with streams, jump off from edge, pretty much what an adventure should be.

There was this time when they jumped off from an 8 meters high rock to the lagoon (I skipped it anyway and walked down the slippery rock but Bandi had the best time of his life boohoo-ing all the way) and once you reached the water, there was a vast stream of water and you had to jump again and let your body moved by the stream down the limestone cave. Oh MY GOD… It was really really beautiful, I was again amazed by how amazing our mother earth is. I don’t have the photo but you really have to experience it at least once in your life.

Bandi Jumped

Bandi was loving it!

The jump became higher and higher and if you love heights, you’re gonna enjoy every second of it. The high jumps are optional, of course, because there is no way I’m gonna do that. Bandi, on the other hand, enjoyed the feeling. I love every second of the adventures except this part, just because I hate the feeling of falling.

The last jump was 12.5 meters and look at Bandi doing it happily, while I had to climbed down on the edge of the waterfall… :(

Bandi Jumped 2

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So, that last jump wrapped up the whole adventure, but sadly we had to walk another 30 minutes hungry and tired. When we finally reached the end of the trek, we were served (super late) lunch and beer!

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Cheers to great adventure and new friendship!

Life is formed by amazing moments like this. I’m truly grateful with all the wonderful people we’ve crossed path with and the breathtaking places we’ve seen. I hope I’ll live my life like this forever, the only way I want it to be.

So, if you have plans to go to Cebu, don’t skip Kawasan Falls! Go canyoneering and meet new people, life’s good! And if you don’t have plans to visit Cebu or Philippines in general, start planning it, the beer is freaking $1 for god’s sake! Our next target for Philippines is Palawan! We love the Philippines!

Cheers,

May, sore from the hike.

 

 

 

Hiking Lion Rock at Hong Kong

If you’re googling about what to do in Hong Kong as a tourist, you will be served with list of shopping places, sinful eateries and Disneyland.

Little did I know, Hong Kong has huge area of greenery and reservoir, which pleasantly surprised me. Hong Kong gained more respect from me because I’ve always adored big bustling city that can reserve nature, it’s important to boost the economy, but green is not less important. We all know how expensive Hong Kong land per meter square is. If you know about Singapore’s expensive land, Hong Kong is even more ridiculous, so reserving the green is admirable act. Kudos, Hong Kong!

I had 48 hours in Hong Kong with my three girlfriends, Angel, Tannia and Renny. Since we live in different countries, we always make effort to meet once in a while. So we all book tickets to Hong Kong, where Tannia lives. She knows great places to hike in Hong Kong. We planned to hike to 2 places, but if you know me in person, you know that’s not gonna happen to me. *Grin*

Where is Lion Rock and how to get there?

Lion Rock lays in Kowloon Island. If you decided to go there by MTR, I’m wishing you luck because the walk is crazy far from MTR (Wong Tai Sin) to the beginning of the trail. If you stopped at Wong Tai Sin MTR, please hail a cab and go to Fat Jong Temple. We took cab from central area to the trail entrance (going up from Fat Jong Temple). The cab driver refused to drive up at first but we assured him that there’s motor road all the way up (which is true), so he drove all the way up to the trail entrance.

Here’s the entrance of the trail! Angel, Olive, Tannia, Me and Renny!

How long is the hike and is it difficult?

The hike started with a very boring stairs surrounded by trees for about 15 minutes, and then the view turned to be nicer when we reached higher altitude. We stopped a lot of times of pictures and idiotic video making.

I had great times and I believe my friends did as well because they loved making fun of how ‘weak’ I am. I complain a lot when I hike. I hate the burning feeling on my chest and throat whenever I climb up (probably the abnormal ECG test thingy) but I love views from above (not from the edge), so I guess I have to suck it up.

The difficult part started from here, look at the photo below. When you see that, behold your guts, it’s all burning thighs from there.

Get ready!

It took about solid 20 minutes full of heavy breath and burning quads oil we reach the top. The view was awesome, it’s a view of Hong Kong. You can see the old airport which runway turned into a park from the top. Move to another rock formation, you will see the pretty bridge that links Kowloon Island to Tsing Yi. Pretty amazing.

My favorite shot!

If you like looking out to cities, this is a must!

If you’re wondering why it’s named Lion Rock, it’s named that way because of the rock formation that actually looks like a head of a lion. Use some imagination now!

The lion head is the rock behind us, imagine the eye of the lion is the deep line above my head.

The descent trail was more fun than the ascend, there were more variety of rocks and paths which made it less boring. It took us about 2 hours up and down the Lion Rock, including photo taking time, and believe me, we did a looof of that. Personally I don’t think Lion Rock is a difficult trail, however it could be very exhausting if you’re unfit. And get ready to be sore the next day. Oh I love the sore feeling, judge me.

So what did we do at night after hiking? Guess what? We partied till morning! Haha! We celebrated Renny’s birthday with an amazing Thai meal and continued to dance the night away. After all, we didn’t meet very often, so we wanted to make every moments count.

If you’re visiting Hong Kong and looking for an outdoor activity, I really recommend hiking to Lion Rock, of course it would be more fun doing it with friends. :) Good luck and have fun!

Cheers,

May, finally free from work deadline and up for more adventures.

Seoul in the eyes of a non K-pop fan

This is the first time I’m travelling during festive season (Christmas and New Year) so this is also the first time I paid expensive ticket to go somewhere. I usually go to random destinations depends on the ticket price, so I would start a blog post bragging about how cheap my flight ticket is. Not this time. :(

We got a free one-way ticket to Bangkok to start holiday with and I didn’t want to be stuck in Bangkok for so long, so we decided to fly to Seoul, South Korea. We knew nothing about South Korea or Seoul in particular. There are only 2 things people tell me from their Seoul Trip:

One is everything related to K-Pop or K-drama. Two is how cheap their cosmetics are.

Both turned out to be the highlights of Seoul. I’m not a fan of K-Pop, I know nothing about K-pop and K-drama, so point number one is invalid for me; but point number two… oh boy, are they right about it.

Looking at Seoul from a non Kpop fan perspective, I must say that Seoul is interesting, Seoul is hip, Seoul is loud, but it is lack of personality. City is not an ideal destination for me, so I have certain expectation when I visit cities. I don’t say I’m disappointed with Seoul, no. Seoul has so many things to offer. I visited Seoul in winter, the most harsh weather of all, and I still enjoyed it. But if you want to talk about soul of the city, Seoul doesn’t have it. It’s not like London or Tokyo who will give you goosebumps when you explore them. Oh I really love London, London left such an impression for me. You don’t have to like a city to know its personality. Hong Kong for example, has a personality. Not the personality that I love though. I don’t fancy Hong Kong, I visited once and had returned yet. I will probably will return because my best friend lives there, not because I like it. But anyway, there is a possibility I found Seoul a bit boring because I visited during winter, it was super cold. Maybe I’ll visit again someday when the weather is warmer.

Cranky me, kept asking to go inside because it was super cold.

Cranky me, kept asking to go inside because it was super cold.

I don’t know if this makes sense. So to cut it short, Seoul has lack of personality. Contrasting to its name, Seoul is soulless. I just felt some of the part of it is artificial. It doesn’t make this statement true. It’s just my opinion.

I took a stroll at MyeongDong and totally understood why beauty products competition in Korea is very steep. There are millions of different products, you will get lost following the trends.

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Then I went to Hongdae, which is my favourite spot in Seoul, it’s full of hype and so alive. Youngsters perform in the street, clubs are loud during Friday night, Food is cheaper than the other hip neighbourhoods, beer is cheap and stores are full of promotion and discounts. Hongdae is the little sister of Orchard Road who is in meth.

But it is in Bukchon Hanook Village, I found a gem in this busy and loud city. This small village full of traditional hanook houses is just so beautiful and picturesque. It’s an Oasis in this newly developed country’s capital city. While walking around, I imagined how people lived there a thousand years ago, during spring when the flowers bloomed, must be a luxury.

Picturesque view. You have no idea the struggle I had to take this angle.

Picturesque view. You have no idea the struggle I had to take this angle.

A sticky tripod and an effort to get a good angle. Voila!

A sticky tripod and an effort to get a good angle. Voila!

We planned to visit Nami Island cause the place popped up repeatedly in everyone’s blog, so it seemed like a must-visit place. However after further reading about the small island which rocketed to fame out of a K-Drama and the fact that I couldn’t survive more than 15 minutes in the outdoor winter wind, we decided not to go.

The thing that I adore the most from Seoul as a visitor is their superb transportation system. One card for everything, just like in Singapore. Their MRT is clean, fast, reliable, just awesome. We took the bus 1 time and had the same good experience. While the best thing about Seoul is… THE FOOD, the spicy food to be precise. Just like so many Indonesians, Bandi and I love spicy food and Koreans mean it when they say it’s spicy. Their spicy is not a gimmick, it really is! If you know the famous Samyang spicy ramen noodle, there are a lot of Samyang’s spiciness equivalent in Seoul.

Dry trees during winter can be a nice prop too. The gloominess creates such drama.

Dry trees during winter can be a nice prop too. The gloominess creates such dramatic effect.

The only good thing about visiting Seoul during winter is the fact that you can go skiing, which we did. It was our first time skiing so we bought a package from Expedia for a day trip to Elysian Ski Resort which includes English speaking beginner’s ski lesson. The journey from Seoul to Elysian Resort took about one and a half hour, providing no traffic jam. Sadly we were stuck in the traffic when we returned to Seoul. It’s a big city after all, traffic jam is part of it.

This is so heavy, ugh! I was sweating inside.

This is so heavy, ugh! I was sweating inside.

Selfie in goggles!

Selfie in goggles!

Overall, I enjoyed Seoul. I probably would love enjoy it more if I visited during spring because it was so cold when I visited (-5 degrees for the love of god, I thought I would die) and most of the trees were dead. I don’t usually go shopping when I travel, but there is no way you visit Seoul without buying their skincare products. And surprisingly it was fun to shop skincare. I am vain too afterall. Judge me.

Check my vlog about Seoul here:

Bandi and traveled to East Java during the Chinese new year break, together with Bandi’s family. It was one hell of journey. I hope I’ll have time to write it and edit the blog because Q1 is the busiest time of my work. For now until April, I will take a travel-off period because I really need to work. Help me god, I will have some time off here and there so I can do some simple blogging.

Talk to you guys next time!

Cheers,

May, literally typing this while sitting on the toilet bowl.

Serendipity called Jeju

Don’t you just love it when you have a fortunate accident, an unexpected wonder, a serendipity? That’s Jeju Island for me. I almost skipped this small island, but thankfully a friend of mine insisted I had to visit it because I would love it.  He persistently asked me to go. And yes, he’s right. I LOVED IT. I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. I left a piece of my heart there. Yes, to that extent.

To be fair, I always love island destination and I love road-tripping, so going around an island in a car usually ends wonderfully for me. We rented a car in Jeju and grabbed a local map, the rest was history. We got to see so many wonderful things in Jeju and oh boy, this island is a gem!

The first thing across my mind whenever I found an awesome destination is to share it with the world and to tell everyone to come. So, here are the things in Jeju that I absolutely love and would experience again when I come back and hopefully inspire you to visit:

1. Staying in this cute and humble airbnb called “Sun Story”

I’m so thankful we stayed in this airbnb. The place was just so comfy and unique, and oh the owners are a happy couple who were so kind and welcoming. I happened to break their shower head and they did not fine me -ha! They also recommended us to hike Oreums, which brings us to the next reason why I will definitely come back to Jeju for more!

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The off-path humble bed and breakfast.

Surviving winter

Surviving winter

Imagine chilling during summer on that hammock.

Imagine chilling during summer on that hammock.

2. Hiking the Oreums

Oreums are like hills, big vast hills. Hiking the oreums is like bushwalking in Australia. One of my favourite thing to do while traveling. Yongnuni Oreum means dragon hill, and if we could take a look from the top, the oreum looks like a sleeping dragon. The track was easy and good to walk on with family. Bandi and I had a very good time hiking this Oreoum during winter, it was a wonderful weather and wonderful view from the top! Definitely something to do if you’re in Jeju!

Let's go!

Let’s go!

What an incredible start of the year!

What an incredible start of the year!

3. Eating Black Pork BBQ in this Ajumma’s Restaurant

We didn’t know the name of the restaurant, but Bandi read in someone’s blog that Running Man had an episode there. Eating black pork BBQ with Kimchi Soup and purple rice, surrounded by ten side dishes is one of the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Each of them create such a beautiful symphony in my mouth and everything they say about Korean BBQ made sense. (P.s I didn’t fancy Korean BBQ until that meal in that Ajumma’s restaurant) Turned out you just need to go to the right place. If you want to visit this place by public transport, I cannot help you because I don’t know how to type the name, but if you’re driving a car, just key in this phone number (784-1007) to your GPS. Just park on the road side, the store looks like this. You’re welcome.

I don’t know what’s its name or write it in alphabets, but this is how the restaurant looks like!

A wonderful meal experience and one of the best dishes we've ever had in our life!

A wonderful meal experience and one of the best dishes we’ve ever had in our life!

4. Play on the beach and in the clear turquoise water

We did not get to do this because it was winter when we visited. Even though in the picture it looked sunny and warm, it was 7 degrees. The closest we got to the water was this boat canoeing in the bay. We didn’t so much cash left but when we were driving around and saw people canoeing happily in this sunny winter weather, I wanted too, so we stopped over, parked the car and asked how much it was. It was 10,000 won for 30 minutes per person and they accepted credit card, yay! They have credit card machine everywhere, so we could be conveniently over-budget.

Row row row your boat!

Row row row your boat!

I think it's safe for Brownie to plan in the water during winter because of those layer of fats. LOL

I think it’s safe for Brownie to plan in the water during winter because of those layer of fats. LOL

5. Chill in the café watching the sun sets in the blue sea.

Bonmal Cafe. Remember this name and visit when you’re in Jeju. It was a shame that we didn’t get to spend longer time chilling here because we got to go to the airport.

A very instagrammable cafe

A very instagrammable cafe

Great coffee too!

Great coffee too!

Great place to chill!

Great place to chill!

6. Drive around the island

Hands down, my most favourite thing in life is road-tripping (so ironic because I can’t drive –  so I’m stuck with Bandi for the rest of my life), and it’s even more fun road-tripping in an island, because you’ve got to go back in the circle to the place where you started, just like coldplay song, “Oh let’s go back to the start…” Yeah, I’m dramatic that way.

7. OSULLOC Green Tea Museum (and Green Tea Ice Cream FTW)

This place is not overrated! You must have heard about this place somewhere or someone must have mentioned it before because this place is famous, and it is famous with good reasons! Yes the green tea museum is not so big, but I could still get to learn some stuffs about tea culture in Korea and do you know that green tea and black tea are from the same plants, the difference is the process of roasting! Well, I didn’t know that, I always thought they were from different plants! I also got to see the beautiful tea plantation (just like the one we have in Bogor, East Java, Indonesia). They sell high quality teas too, just like TWG, but much cheaper. I don’t understand why people have to choose to be a coffee person or a tea person, why can’t I just be both? I love both teas and coffees! I want to be both! Aaaaakkkk! So yeah, their tea is amazing. I bought some for my mom and mother in law because… who doesn’t love a good cup of tea, right?

The small but informative green tea museum!

The small but informative green tea museum!

Tea plantation!

Tea plantation!

None of these are overrated. Truly delicious products of the humble green tea.

None of these are overrated. Truly delicious products of the humble green tea.

8. Hiking Mt Hallasan!

Okay, we did not get to do this because it was winter and I would die going up to a mountain while winter. I was dying climbing in summer, how do you think I would survive winter climbing? But the next time I visit Jeju, I will conquer Mt. Halia! This is a promise!

9. Watching sunrise in Seongsan summit.

Climbing up to the Seongsan Summit (or most of people call sunrise peak) is not difficult and it’s one of the must-to-do things in Jeju. We woke up very early to watch the first sunrise in Seongsan, but little did we know, thousands of people wanted the same thing, so the hiking trails were packed with people and we were not allowed to continue to the peak and were redirected to another peak. We stayed for 15 minutes only to realise how chaotic it would be once the sun rose and everyone would leave on the same time and the road would be jammed. So we left early and watched the sunrise on some random people’s ranch, together with this horsey. :p

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10. Visiting all the wacky but informative themed museums

From Hello Kitty land to Sex Museums, Jeju offers all kind of different and unique themed exhibitions. The most famous would be the Teddy Bear museums, which we didn’t go because we chose to go to the Love Land, which is a park that celebrates all things sexual. Oh la la! Yes, I ditched the huggable Ted for some dick sculptures. Judge me.

Other themed park/museum that probably suit your fetish-ahem, I mean interest, is Maze Park, Stone parks full of penis-shaped stone, mini land (full of mini size of world’s famous buildings/landscapes), K-Drama museum, Ripley’s believe it or not museum, glass museum or Women’s divers museum.

Guess what?

Guess what?

And…. the greatest reasons of all… Jeju is feminist and environmentalist.

Jeju has long history of strong women. Jeju is well-known for their women’s divers and women from Jeju are strong and independent. My kind of women, wink. This fact just made me fall in love even more with Jeju.

Jeju uses renewable energy! Looking at those pretty windmills when we drove around island made me happy. It’s really the new time, it’s the time of renewable energy!

And of those things I listed still didn’t convince you to pack your bag and go to Jeju, I hope this clip I put up together will. Enjoy!

Cheers,

May, missing Jeju already.

Northern Vietnam through my right eye

Adventures… Sometimes it really happened crazier than you expected. Just when your left eye were medicated-thus blurry and you were suffering for back ache. Great timing, adventure god!

Meet four people: May, Bandi, Trang and Thinh. Our goal is to chase a cloud in Y Ty, a very small town northern from Sapa (which is already northern from Hanoi (which is already a North City in Viet Nam)), so north that it can’t be even more north; so north that just some steps away, you reached China.

The clouds in Y Ty supposed to be like this:

Some random believable photo from the internet

Some random believable photo from the internet

But alas… the adventure god wanted something different, so came there non-stop rain, muddy roads, fogs and a ghost! Yes, I saw a ghost (and if you know me, I’m not a person who would believe in ghost).

First of all, my left eye was 80% not working during this trip. It was on full medication so it was dilated and blurry. The whole beauty of Northern Vietnam was only seen by my right eye. Bandi and I arrived in Hanoi in a Friday afternoon, we then waited for Trang and Thinh who flew from Ho Chi Minh. Little background story, Trang was my colleague when she was working in Singapore, and Thinh is her fiance. That evening, we had a very scrumptious dinner at Trang’s house. Her lovely mom and aunt cooked for us an authentic Vietnamese dinner experience! :)

Homecooked meal.

Homecooked meal.

After dinner, we took taxi to the train station where I happened to catch Pikachu and took a midnight train to Lao Cai. Around 5 am in the morning, we arrived at Lao Cai, and continued our journey by overpacked van to Sa Pa. The journey from Lao Cai to Sa Pa was horrible! It was so zig-zaggy, one person requested to stop for a while to throw up. Thankfully Bandi and I are so used to seasick, mountain sick doesn’t feel so bad anymore. Once we reached Sa Pa, we rightaway wore our jacket because it was soooo cold (at least for me, the true blue tropical creature).

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Sa Pa is wonderful, a small mountainous town which is surrounded by so many mountains and traditional Vietnamese village. It is also a home of the longest cable car in Viet Nam which can bring you to the summit of Fansipan Mountain, the highest peak of Viet Nam!

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But it is the journey from Sa Pa to Y Ty that caught my (blurry) eyes. The view was… AMAZING! Tidily Architectured rice paddy fields with mountains in the background, oh what a feast to the eyes! The four of us rented motorcycle, and rode to Y ty. It was only 72 km away from Sa Pa on the map, but we spent four and a half hours!

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We reached Y Ty around 4 pm, rested a while and had dinner. We met another local couple and went for coffee in a deserted cafe in the middle of nowhere, even walking there was a thrill!

But what happened that night was probably the craziest thing ever happened to me. I saw a ghost! This human-like shadow was standing between Bandi and Thinh and stared at them when they were asleep. It just happened that I suddenly woke up and saw it. The bed seemed to be protected because we used mosquito nets and the room was pitch dark. After I felt that I gave enough time for it to disappear but it didn’t, I took my phone and opened the torch light. I torched onto it, because on that moment I was so scared that it could be a thief! That’s even scarier right?

But when I torched it, it flew away and vanished into thin air. That was when I finally accepted the fact that maybe I saw a ghost.

I didn’t tell Bandi rightaway because he would need to drive back to Sa Pa the next day, so I just really tried so hard to sleep. Obviously, I couldn’t sleep well.

The next day I told Bandi, his face was priceless. LOL

As though this trip hasn’t been crazy enough, that morning when we tried to ride up above the clouds, fogs kept following us and it rained. We had to pass the muddy road in the middle of the rain, a lot of times we felt like almost falling down. We did fall down from motorcyle eventually, which was not new to me. It happened a couple of times for me and Bandi together.

Even though Y Ty trip was a total failure, I was happy we did that. What a crazy trip that left us with so many crazy stories! Oh the feeling of riding up to the top above the clouds through mountainous muddy road with an amateur motorcyle was both recklessly stupid and excited.

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This is absolutely one of the most memorable trip ever and I would cherish all the moments we shared. :) Pretty photos incoming!

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If you would like to go to Sa Pa, you can take midnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and continue with shuttle bus (van) to Sa Pa. Getting back to Hanoi would be faster by sleeper bus. I post the detail itinerary on how to reach Sa Pa on my instagram @jaunemai .

But I don’t recommend you to go to Y Ty without local people going with you, and you also have to be an experienced motorboke rider since the road is quite dangerous during rainy season.

Personally I would love to come back again to Sa Pa just for relaxing, sipping coffee while staring at the vast green mountains. Would you? ;)

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Cheers,

May, with new bruises

The sun awaits you in Okinawa

Japan is known for its amazing culture, high tech toilet, delicious food and friendly people. Its cities like Tokyo and Osaka are fusion of traditional and modern atmosphere. Japan is always special, at least for me. This time, I’ve got to visit Japan with Bandi, it’s his first visit to Japan; and we decided not to start our Japan adventure in the mainland, but rather southern from the mainland, much much southern, which is…

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I will not make a post about how much I love Okinawa or reasons why you should visit Okinawa too, because trust me, OKINAWA is THE BEST beach destination for us. We love Okinawa so much that when we waited for our flight out of Okinawa, Bandi has already searched for another cheap flight ticket to Okinawa. He didn’t want to leave Okinawa so bad.

Don’t think twice to put Okinawa into your bucket list. This small Island (which surrounded by so many tiny islands) is a paradise! The food, the beach, the people…

So now let’s talk about technical stuff, because you’re going to Okinawa! No excuse!

How to reach Okinawa?

Fly there! The cheapest option would be flying from Taipei because there are a lot of budget airline from Taipei to Naha International Aiport (Okinawa). I flew with Peach Air from Taipei to Okinawa and it costed me S$100. The second cheapest would be flying local from Tokyo. I also heard there is a tourist package where you can buy from Tokyo to fly to Okinawa and return to Tokyo for only 1,000 Yen!

Another way is from Hongkong or Manila, which also have direct flight to Okinawa. But I didn’t do any search about it because I got my Taipei ticket before deciding to continue to Okinawa.

I believe there are various options to fly direct to Okinawa but usually they’re much more expensive. Singapore has direct flight to Okinawa by Silk Air, but I don’t even bother to check the price.

How to go around Okinawa Island?

Naha City is the biggest city in Okinawa and around Naha, there are trains and buses, however the public transport isn’t working so well in other parts of island like Nago and central Okinawa. (Naha is Southern Okinawa where Airport is in.) So the best choice for visitor is to rent a car! Cars are cheap to rent in Okinawa. I got mine for 18,000 yen for 4 days rent.

From Naha to Nago, it took us about 2 hours to drive if we continuously used toll road, which I found expensive. The normal road has so many traffic lights and could add another 1 hour traveling time. So your choice, time or money, literally.

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Beautiful coastline along the way… you’ll never get tired of it.

How to go from one island to another island?

There are a lot of ferry port in Okinawa main island. We got a free tourist booklet from airport which is very informative about all the islands in Okinawa and how you get there, which ferry you should take, etc. People is also friendly and you can easily ask for information or just browse google on which ferry to take.

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When we boarded the ferry.

We visited Minna Island which is located in the western part of Okinawa, it took us about 20 minutes ferry ride. Minna Island was very small, we could walk from end to end in 10 minutes! We swam, snorkeled and relaxed on the beach.

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I got seasick after snorkeled too long.

Where should I stay in Okinawa?

Hotels are common in Naha City, while Nago has only expensive resort. We booked airbnb studio apartment in Naha which costed us around $300 for 4 nights. I believe you can get the same price for 3 star hotel, but you know how I feel about airbnb. :)

Is Okinawa expensive?

Comparing to mainland Japan, Okinawa is much cheaper! But Japan itself is labeled as expensive destination (which I don’t fully agree to). Personally I think Okinawa is the most valuable destination ever. I got super cheap flight ticket to go there, cheap amazing airbnb, cheap car rental, cheap foods and… FREE BEACH! Think about it, in order to relax and have fun in amazing beaches, you have to pay some fee, and sometimes a night in a resort… but not in Okinawa! There are some beaches that require entrance fee (500 yen to 1000 yen) but there are tons on beaches that are free! We, of course, went to all the free beaches. :p

So if you compare the amount of money with the free facilities, quality of food and extremely pristine clear water beaches, Okinawa is a steal!!!

What are the highlights of Okinawa?

I think 4 days in Okinawa is definitely not enough. I seriously want to come back for 1 week or 10 days trip to Okinawa, doing island hopping and some serious laziness-related beach activity like… reading while sunbathing. But 4 days is enough to make me fall in love. :)

So here’s the highlight:

The Beaches and lookouts

Of course, duh! Okinawan beaches have white sand and sparkling pristine water, which is everyone’s dream beach. The best thing about the beaches is free facilities, like free parking, free shower, free toilet and there is no street vendor that pushes you to buy stuffs like in other Asian beaches. And… I put my phone, car key and some change under my towel which I neglected on the beach and since it’s Japan, nobody stole it. JAPAN IS THE BEEEEST!

Emerald Beach in the Northern Okinawa

Emerald Beach in the Northern Okinawa

Bandi, attempting to do weird stuffs

Bandi, attempting to do weird stuffs

What pose we should do next?

What pose we should do next?

Since we drove a car, we could easily stop by at look-out points or lighthouses, Okinawa has tons of them. If only we stayed longer there, we would’ve gone for some picnic. But watch out for snakes!

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Cape Manzano, the elephant rock.

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Oh the view!

Kokusai Street

It’s very touristy, but I kinda like it! This street is full of souvenir’s shop, restaurant and food stalls. Bandi’s favorite kind of street. If you decided to go to Kokusai Street, don’t forget to eat at Mahoroba Soba and try the Spicy Taiwanese noddle. I know it’s ironic to eat Taiwan type Soba in Okinawa. but it’s the best!!!

IMG_9014Shuri Castle

We didn’t manage to go in the castle because if time constraint, but even walking around the castle gave you an idea of how amazing this castle is.

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Kin-town (The Amerinca Town)

We went there very late evening so not much to see, but try to visit this place to try the Okinawan Taco Rice! Taco rice doesn’t originally come from Mexico, It comes from Okinawa!

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Taco Rice!

Okinawan Soba

I don’t really fancy this, but you’ve got to try at least once. It’s a thick hot soba in a clear pork broth soup with mushrooms and sliced pork cheeks/bellies. It is delicious, but when you eat it in a tropical island where the sun is as hot as Zac Efron’s abs, you can’t fully enjoy it.

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The islands around

This is the best highlight of Okinawa, the small islands around the mainland. As I mentioned before, try to search which island you’re interested in and find out which port has the ferry to bring you there.

Minna Island

Minna Island

 

Shisa

It is a legendary “animal” which is a mixture of a lion and a dog, believed to protect Okinawan villagers, that’s why you will see a lot of Shisas guarding in front of people’s home or store.

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Cute Sisha in our airbnb

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I bought a Shisa coin purse for the shisa to guard my coins! :D

There are so many other things which I haven’t explored in Okinawa which will always keep me wanting to come back. I hope this post inspires you to pack your back and go to Okinawa! It’s the most underrated place on earth. :)

Go go go!!!

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Cheers,

May, missing beaches already

On the top of Mount Fuji

I climbed Mount Fuji.

I still can’t believe I did it. It was the most horrible thing I’ve done to myself. And it’s all because internet is such a dark place full of lies! I climbed Mount Fuji because people in the internet says it’s not difficult, that grandparents and kindergarteners climb Mount Fuji. So I decided to write this post and give you the truth; like I always do.

First of all, kindergarteners did not climb mount Fuji. They hiked from 5th Station to 6th Station and then they went back. I met a lot of kindergerteners along my hike from 5th Station to 6th Station. It was a breezy long walk with amazing views.

Some grandparents do hike Mt Fuji, but only those super crazy fit grandparents who train daily. During my hike, I met some ‘older’ people, probably those with teenager kids, but no individual grandparents. The only old people I met were those who led the group of hikers (so it’s probably his professional job). So here’s a flash news: normal grandparents do not climb mount Fuji.

So, who climb mount Fuji?

Fools.

Only fools like me climb mount Fuji.

I’m trying here guys… to make you really really understand that it’s no joke. Do not climb mount Fuji expecting it’s gonna be an easy climb. It’s freaking horrible… grovels and rocks and rain and hail and fog and the cold…. oh the cold…

It’s not gonna be pleasant, it’s not gonna be rainbow and unicorn, the weather might change so fast just like teenager’s mood and the wind will tear your soul apart.

If you read this post and plan to climb Mount Fuji, I want you to be prepared. And even after you accept these ugly truths you still want to go, then go. Go conquer that beautiful mountain!

I’m not a hiker and my ECG test result came out abnormal (inherited from my Dad), even though I do yoga I know I am not generally fit person. But I decided to climb Mount Fuji with 2 persons who are so close to me, my hubby and my bestfriend. I know they would understand my weakness and will not shame me if in any case I couldn’t make it.

If you’re still interested with the story and want to know technicality on “how-to”, go ahead and read, but if you have lazy eyes, just grab the pop corn and watch the vlog instead:

So here’s a story of Bandi, Tannia and May conquering Fuji-San:

Storing our other luggage at Shinjuku Station

I tried to find in the internet on where should I store my stuffs which I didn’t want to bring to Fuji but there is no exact clear answer. I know there are a lot of coin lockers in every train station in Tokyo, but I knew that it’s only for 24 hours. What happen if I want to leave it there for 36 hours? You can do that. You just need to pay the penalty when you take out your luggage. You can leave your bags up tp 72 hours. So don’t worry about luggage!

Arriving at 5th Station – 2,305 Meters

We took the Fuji highway bus on 14th July 9:45 am from Shinjuku Express Bus Station. It’s located in the 4th Floor of Shinjuku JR Station. The bus ticket can be booked online only if your IP address is in Japan, if you’re from overseas then you can call them. We booked our outbound tickets through phone and inbound tickets through internet once we reached Tokyo one day before the hike. The price for one way ticket is 2,700 yen.

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We then exchange the booking code with the actual tickets in the bus station. It’s Japan, so everything is well planned.

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The bus ride took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so we reached Fuji 5th Station on noon. We ate our lunch and bought the walking stick made of wood, which is a perfect souvenir from your Fuji adventure. You will know why later on!

5th Station to 6th Station – 2,390 Meters

We took Yoshida Trail (the most common trail people take) so all the stations I’m mentioning is in Yoshida Trail. The walk between 5th Station to 6th Station is nice and breezy. From the altitude you can see it’s only 85 Meters difference in altitude, so with the long walk, you don’t really realize you’re climbing a mountain.

At the end of 6th Station, you can take a selfie like us coz this is gonna be your last happy selfie.

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6th Station to 7th Station – 2,700 Meters

Most of the terrain during this climb is grovels and sands, in a long zig-zag inclined road. Just right before reaching 7th Station you will have your first spiderman climb on the rocks. It was fun!

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7th Station to 8th Station – 3,020 Meters

I think this is the most exhausting and difficult part of the climb. It’s all big rocks with sands so you have to use both your hands and your legs to climb. I stopped in every corner and I started to have difficulty yo breath properly because the thin air. The original 8th Station supposed to be on 3,360 Meters but somehow they moved here… I think it’s probably because it’s just too difficult so people won’t quit if the distance between 7th and 8th are too far from each other. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it rained! We took out our gears and wore our raincoats… and kept walking.

8th Station to Original 8th Station – 3,360 Meters

Still the same… grovels and rocks and then it stopped raining coz… it hailed! On this moment my soul has already been torn apart… I kept imagining laying down in my bed with warm tea on my hand…  but the reality is I was cold, my hands are frozen til I thought my fingers needed to be chopped off (I’m a drama queen whaaat). We started to be panic because it was already 7 pm, the sky was getting darker and darker and we haven’t reached our Mountain Hut… I knew nothing to book Goraiko-kan Hut which is located in the highest of all huts!!! Good job, May!

Original 8th Station to Goraiko-kan (8.5 Station) – 3,450 Meters

I remember it was only the 3 of us and the other 2 persons climbing up from 8th Station. Soon, the 2 persons stopped at a mountain hut before us… and there were only the three of us left, climbing slowly…

When we finally reached Goraiko-kan on 8 pm, I was so happy…. I just wanted to sit in a warm room and rest. I had better… I ate a bowl of ramen. It was the best ramen I’ve ever eaten in my life.

We were given shoe bag where we put our dirty shoes in and then shown into our sleeping bag. We were sleeping in the attic and because I drank too much water before sleeping, I had to go to the toilet in the middle of midnight and the toilet is outside the hut! Noooo!!! I had to walk out alone in the cold! brrr….

Anyway, I had about 3-4 hours sleep until one person started to turn on a torch light and made noise when he packed his stuffs. He was then followed by other people and in minutes, everyone were awake, including us. We ate breakfast in the small attic (imagine it was only 1 meters attic so you have to sit or crawl when you move), which we got from the staffs the night before. It was rice with salmon and tamago. After breakfast, we packed our stuffs and made a move. I was so scared with the cold I almost wanted to give up.

To be honest, even though I groaned a lot, I’ve been very sure I would reach the summit all along… until that morning… when I saw darkness and felt cold. I couldn’t imagine I had to climb in the cold! But of course Tannia and Bandi cheered me up and made sure it’s gonna be alright.

Goraiko-kan to Summit (3,776 Meters)

The distance between Goraiko-kan to the summit was techincally very near, but with the elevation and the cold with little rain, it took us 1 hour to reach the summit. Bad news, there were no sunrise because of the fog. But to be honest, I didn’t really care about the sunrise anymore. I JUST WANTED TO GO BACK TO A WARM PLACE AND SLEEP.

We bought a 500 yen canned drinks that were boiled in the water. Yes they put cans into this boiling water so the canned drinks were boiling hot. Great idea! We held into this small hot can and felt the instant relief of warmth… Oh…. finally… after such a wet cold climb…

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We sat inside a crowded mountain hut and everyone felt so proud of themselves, exchanging stories. I was just so sad because now I had to descend back to where we started, which seemed so horrible for me because I didn’t have any energy left and I had no appetite to eat anything; I was just so tired.

Summit to 5th Station (Descending Trail)

The descending trail is different from the ascending trail. The descend trail is longer but easier. It’s just a small zig-zag road full of rocks and grovels. We descend for 4-5hours I couldn’t remember just because I sat down to rest for every 10 minutes. LOL.

Like I told you, I was in low batter mode already.

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Aftermath

I was definitely proud of myself, no doubt. Climbing Mt. Fuji is by far the greatest physical challenge I’ve ever encountered; and completed. However if you asked me whether I will ever do it again, the answer is very easy: NO WAY in a million gazillion years.

I was left sore and beaten up and I slept the whole evening til the next noon. Bandi insisted to wake up earlier so he could go to Tsukiji Market. Crap.

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Cheers,

May, loving Japan even more.