Monday, October 20, 2014

Sikkim - Goechala Trek, India 26 Sept - 5 Oct 2014

"India Sikkim locator map". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Sikkim is located at the North Eastern corner of India at the foot hill of Himalayan, bordered with Nepal to the west, Bhutan to the East and China to the north. On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the India, and the monarchy was abolished. 

There are no airports or railway stations in Sikkim. The only way to enter Sikkim from rest of India is by road using bus or jeep from West Bengal. The nearest airport is Bagdogra, from here it is 124 km drive from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. We were headed to Yuksom, about 170km north west but the road and traffic to Yuksom was so bad that we took 8 hours to arrive. Yuksom is a small village, said to be the first capital of Sikkim. A base camp for our trek to Goechala.

Restricted Area Permit (also known as Inner Line Permit) is required for all foreigners travelling in Sikkim. We managed to obtain the permit when crossing the Sikkim state border by road at Meili. We needed to prepare photocopy of our passport, India visa and a photo. Our agency help us fill up the forms and the process of getting the permit took about 15 minutes. It was difficult to get it at the local Indian Embassy in Singapore & Malaysia but the Dutch gals managed to get it from Holland with some difficulties.

The 4 of us met at Bagdogra airport, pick-up by Rupak our agency contact and Phurba our guide. It was almost 2pm when we left to Yuksom. Our jeep was loaded with camping equipment and food that we need for the next 10 days. The journey was pretty interesting passing by mountain, valley, villages, rivers and waterfalls. We had time to catch up after 2.5 years. It was around 11pm when we reach Yuksom, totally exhausted.

Yuksom is situated at the altitude of 1780m, temperature was cool. We didn't have time to visit the village. Just a quick stroll to the shops to get some power bars and snacks. We re-packed our bags, only necessary stuff were packed for the trek, the rest were left in the hotel. We met the crew, a horse man who managed the 4 horses, 2 young kids and 3 men who are helper, chef, assistant chef and our guide. The horses carry our luggage, camping equipment, and food. The helpers carry some fragile food, some necessary cooking equipment, table and chairs in a basket supported by their forehead. We carry a light backpack which store our water, cameras, snacks, raincoat, windbreaker, hat, medicine, etc. We are all set to go!

Rathong River

27th Sep 2014
Trek start : Yuksom (1780m)
Trek end : Sachen (2100m)
Duration : 4 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

After registration at the Park office, we started our hike. Shortly after we left the civilization, moving into the dense forest, gorges on our left and Rathong river occasionally emerged deep down in the gorge. I had the feeling of walking in a giant park as the path was wide and clear. We took our time today as we only have a short distance to cover. Our guide Phurba gave us some info about Do's and Don'ts in the park. We were not to litter any rubbish in the park, he carried a bag with him where he picked up rubbish along the way. We were not allowed to plug or removed any plant or animal from the park. We can drink from the fresh cold water off the stream. We were to give way to the horses and yaks when they pass, we were supposed to move aside to the wall and not the gorge side in case the animal bump into us. That will be disaster to fall in the gorge!

We had a little warm up with our camera, shooting conservatively as we need to conserve the battery for 9 days. :-) My brother "Ah Seng" a well known figure now in Sikkim (as his name means "uncle" in local language) and I found some mushrooms along the way, we were both macro enthusiastic, so we trek slower to spot things that were tiny. We enjoy it!

Not long after, the 2 boys met us on the trek and brought us warm pineapple juice, that was a surprise! How did they know we were nearby? There must be some sort of communication between the guide and them... We reached Sachen hut around 3pm, lunch was served within minutes. We had veggie soup, potato, and bread. It was delicious! We were told strictly not to nap, so we hang around the hut chatting with another group of local students trekkers and enjoy a cup of tea. At 5pm the sun has set, temperature dropped. Our tent were set 10m away from the hut on the upper site of the path, they have placed our bags, sleeping bags and mats in the tent. Service was excellent! At night after dinner, they surprised me with a birthday cake, it was brilliant and priceless!

We call it a day really early as there is no electricity and slightly cold. The first night in the forest in a tent was creepy, we heard a lot of noises. Something was moving outside our tent at night, but we found out that it was the horse when he could not hold his neigh anymore.

28th Sep 2014
Trek start : Sachen (2100m)
Trek end : Tshoka (3050m)
Duration : 4 hrs
Difficulties : Moderate

Waking up with the sound of birds, horses and bells was unusual, we will have to get used to it. :-) The 2 young boys brought us tea at our campsite, it was nice to have a warm cup of tea in the chill morning. We packed up our stuff, have a nice breakfast, watched the Yaks and horses loaded up and off we go. Today it's a bit more difficult we were told, as we will have to ascent 950m. After a gradual flat path to the hanging bridge, it was all the way upward. The path has lots of loose rocks and fresh and old dunk as the horses and yaks used the same path as well. We had a stop over half way at Bakhim, a tea break at the caretaker house and enjoy the view of valley towards Yuksom. The forest is so dense that we were not getting any sun light. That's also why we find a lot of mushrooms and fungus here as the ground is always moist. After Bakhim, we push upwards for another hour to arrive at Tshoka.

Tshoka used to be small settlement but since Kanchengzonga National Park established, the residents has been moved to Yuksom, only the caretaker of the lodges stay back. We got a hut this night. The room is basic with wood raised floor, that's it. We laid our camping mat on it and sleep in our sleeping bag. The toilet condition is acceptable. We even have a Bathroom but it is just a small room with nothing inside. Not long after we arrived, the rain started pouring and continue through the night. We thank god that we are in the hut instead of tent.

Tshoka Hut
From Tshoka, we have our first view of the Kanchengzonga range in the morning. The view was breathtaking. 

29th Sep 2014
Trek start : Tshoka (3050m)
Trek end : Dzongri (4030m)
Duration : 6 hrs
Difficulties : Moderate

We started with a steep climb up to Phedang, some path is paved with wooden logs and some full of stones and pebbles, very hard for the knees. The heavy downpour yesterday has made the path very muddy and slippery. We stop over at Phedang for lunch, it was misty, we can't see any view from here. There was more ascent after lunch to Deorali, from there it was almost flat towards Dzongri. We worked hard to reach Deorali which was supposed to have good view of the range but it was all covered with mist. We almost can't see 10m ahead. It started to drizzle and got really cold. We continue to walk so to keep ourselves warm, finally the sky was clearing. We got a bit of sun shining in and out from the cloud. We saw the trekker hut from far as the forest open up to much lower scrub plants. A stop over at the first hut for a cup of tea under the warm sun, then we push another 500m upwards to our campsite at Doering. 

Dzongri is where we will stay for 2 nights to acclimatised. We were already developing some headache when we arrived here. We took some paracetamol to subside the headache. At Doering where we camp, there is a stone hut where the crew setup their kitchen, we have our tents and a dining tent setup with table and chairs inside. There is no toilet this time so we will have to do it in the open nature. :-) Again we were told not to take any nap, we were tired from unable to sleep at night and the long trek today. It was much colder here at 4000m, we can't even sit outside and relax as it was cloudy and windy. I retreat into the tent and got in my sleeping bag, trying to read and stay awake. I was cold even after changing into my 1 layer of thermal underwear and a layer of fleece. I wasn't well prepared for this temperature. :-( Even my sleeping bag was only for up to 6c. I knew I was in trouble now!

Mt. Kangchengzonga @ 8586m
30th Sep 2014
Trek start : Dzongri (4030m) to Dzongri Top (4300m)
Trek end : Dzongri (4030m)
Duration : 50mins up 30mins down
Difficulties : Moderate

Woke up at 4am, well we didn't really sleep the whole night. Nightmare and coldness kept us awake. The boys brought us hot tea in the tent, it was a big effort to get out from the warm sleeping bag. Brrrr... Don't even talk about getting change into another set of cloths....

Kanchengzonga and Singalila range
Campsite at Dzongri

We stepped out from the tent under a clear sky with million of stars and shining half moon, then we saw the glowing Kanchengzonga and Singalila range. Wooow!! We forgot about the coldness and tiredness! We quickly hike towards the view point, it was strenuous! not from the steep hike but from lack of oxygen.  Every 5 steps we took we need to stop to breath, our heart were pumping like a hammer jack! But once we get up there for the magnificent view, it was all worth it! We were so lucky to have clear and beautiful sunrise.

The way down was a bleeze, the frozen grass and flowers slowly awaken with the heat of sun. We stayed out to take in all the heat we could and to admire the magnificent view of the range. The rest of the day was just spend eating and resting.

1st Oct 2014
Trek start : Dzongri (4030m)
Trek end : Thangsing (3930m)
Duration : 4.5 hrs
Difficulties : Moderate

We woke up with cloudy sky, not like yesterday. The mountains are hidden behind a curtain of cloud.

We took the same path towards Dzongri Top, but took a left towards the mountain. From here we have a gentle downhill along the Rhododendron forest and streams. Flowers carpeted the ground, red, yellow, white etc making the place so colorful. As we reach the end of the mountain, it was a steep downhill to the Prek Chu River. The rocky and uneven path strain our knees.

Prek Chu River
At the end of the steep down slope we arrived at Khokchurang hut but we were not going to camp here. After a break, we continue to cross Prek Chu River towards the right and follow the path upwards. At this altitude, pine trees surround the mountain. 

By noon we arrived at Thangsing, located in the middle of the valley, surrounded by mountain which is invisible to us as the cloud covers them.

We all agreed to sleep in the hut tonight, as it will be warmer and more room to stretch. We finally got our feet out from our socks and changed into our slipper when the sun was out. What a relieve!

Thangsing campsite
The sky was clear at night, we could see Mt. Pandim and Tien Chen Khang glow at night. 

Mt Pandim & Tien Chen Khang at night
2nd Oct 2014
Trek start : Thangsing (3930m) to Simiti Lake (4450m)
Trek end : Lamune (4130m)
Duration : 2 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

Another sleepless night, we could tell who was talking in their sleep, who went to pee and how many times, who snore, who has problem with zipper, who fart.... That's what we do the whole night. Life is so simple after 5 days in the wilderness, our daily conversation has evolved into what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner, have you been to no. 2, where did you do it, how's your knee, mushrooms, flowers, blue sheep, tea, what do you wear and plenty of laughter :-) Why make life complicated?

Mt. Kancgengzonga & Pandim
After getting thru another cold night, which I am quite use to it now. Every night I will asked for my bottle to be fill up by hot water, the bottle will served as a heat pack for me in my sleeping bag. It works pretty well. Every morning the boys will bring us hot tea to wake us up, it made the transition into cold morning easier. 

The sky is clear this morning, we had blue sky, sunshine and clear view to the mountain peaks. The trek today is the shortest and the most beautiful. We walked in the valley towards Mt. Kanchengzonga, some part still frozen and slippery. As we move closer, we could see Mt. Kanchengzonga into full view. There is no more treeline, only bushes and shrubs. The view took our breath away.

Simiti Lake
When we reach Lamune, there is only a kitchen hut and nothing else. Cloud started to move in, we continue to Simiti Lake to try catch a good view. The climb up to Simiti Lake was strenuous due to the altitude and lack of oxygen. Ah Seng was having some difficulty breathing, we took our time to stop every 5 steps to catch our breath. We got there eventually but the cloud has already arrived before us. The peaks are now covered. :-( We hung around the lake, enjoy the beauty of the surrounding until we got a bit cold.

Blue Sheep or Bharal
The way back was very cold as the wind blows against us, we were almost running back to our tent. That afternoon, it was snowing, temperature plumbed tremendously. We have to hide in the kitchen hut to get some heat. We spotted Blue Sheep by Prek Chu River just next to our tent. They were so close, just a river apart. They camouflage very well to blend into the rock face. We were so lucky to see them so close!

Now here is where everyone will wake up early in the morning to trek to Goechala viewpoint. Inge decided that she will go and the rest of us decided to give it a miss. Due to the extreme coldness and lack of warm cloths, I have decided not to make it to Goechala viewpoint. I could not bear thinking of stepping out from the sleeping bag 4am in the morning in the freezing cold temperature. 

Kockchurang Hut
3rd Oct 2014
Trek start : Lamune (4130m)
Trek end : Kockchurang (3686m)
Duration : 2.5 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

For Inge who went up to Goechala Viewpoint, she saw Mt. Kanchengzonga up close and the clear morning view of Simiti lake was stunning. She wanted to push forward to Viewpoint 2 but the assistant guide was given instruction not to. Well, safety comes first! )

She was back to the campsite around 8am to join us for breakfast. We were glad she made it there and brought us some beautiful photos. Today we were happy to head down hill but reluctant to leave this beautiful place. We back trek to Thangsing and follow Prek Chu River back to Kockchurang. Our guide managed to get a room in the hut for us. Kockchurang is a really nice campsite, surrounded by forest and Prek Chu River gushing pass 50m away.

Prek Chu River
4th Oct 2014
Trek start : Kockchurang (3686m)
Trek end : Tshoka (3050m)
Duration : 4 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

It was a long day to cover 10km trek, we took another path to bypass going up to Dzongri. The trek is almost flat until we reach Phedang. We can still have a peep of Mt. Pandim when we look back thru the forest. At Phedang we missed the last chance of seeing the Kanchengzonga range as it was cloudy again. The way down to Tshoka is all the way down hill, my knees started to complain :( The temperature at Tshoka felt warm now, we could not hold back anymore for not washing our hair, all of us took a hair wash with the fresh chill water! It was such a relieve after that. :D

This is our last night of the trek, the crew prepared a special candle light dinner for us. Well, actually every night we have candle light dinner as there was no electricity.

5th Oct 2014
Trek start : Tshoka (3050m)
Trek end : Yuksom (1780m)
Duration : 5 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

The longest day for us to end the trip, we covered this 13km in 2 days with a stop at Sachen when we started but because it is down hill, it will be less strenuous. For my knees and toes they didn't agreed to it. Ah Seng definitely has no problem going down as he was running down the mountain with the helpers.

Well that ends our amazing 9 days Goechala trek, the trek was not strenuous generally but the cold and altitude was a big challenge. Lucky for me I could be accompanied by my brother "Ah Seng", Inge and Marga whom I met and traveled together in Chile and Argentina and the best guide and crew in Sikkim. That all made this trip incredible and hard to forget.

Hotel Heritage (near Kolkata Airport)– S$47 per room/night with attached toilet, hot shower, TV. Breakfast, WIFI.

Air Asia - SG-KL-Kolkata return S$430.59 pp
Taxi to Hotel Heritage- 500rps per taxi
Taxi to Kolkata Airport- 300rps per taxi
Jet Airways - Kolkata - Bagdoga S$97.50 pp
Air India - Bagdoga-Kolkata 3793rps pp
Darjeering to Makaibari - US$22 per car

9D8N Goechala trek - US$600 pp incl, transfer from Bagdoga-Yuksom-Darjeering, 2 nights hotel stay in Yuksom, trek permit, park fees, food, potter, cook, horses and guide during the whole trek. The agency we used Venture Himalaya Team EXCELLENT service!
Sleeping bag and mat rental - US$60 pp
1N Makaibari Tea Estate homestay - US$60 (for 2) incl transfer from Makaibari to Kolkata Airport

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Penang, Malaysia 23-25 May 2014

Penang is an island of 293 km², located at the north of Straits of Malacca. One of the International acclaimed Best Street Food in Asia and in 2014 voted as top food destination in Lonely Planet. Due to the highly diverse ethnicity, Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia and Thai influence as well. Just to name a few famous dish like Penang Laksa, Penang Prawn Mee, Penang Char Kway Teow, Penang Rojak and Penang Popiah. Apart from indulging into the local food, experience the unique charms of Georgetown, see the unique architectural and cultural townscape.

The last time I was in Penang was over 20 years ago. I weakly recall taking the ferry across from Butterworth, seeing the tallest building around the island - The Komtar, visiting the Snake Temple, Kek Lok Si Temple, The Penang Hill, Batu Ferringhi Beach, Butterfly Farm and eating at the Gurney Drive. I didn't remember anything attractive about Georgetown at all. 20 year later, this place has became a UNESCO World Heritage site representing the British era from the end of the 18th century.

The narrowest walkway
This trip was triggered from seeing a friend's photos online, all the street arts and old architecture excite me! :-) I don't know why, I don't appreciate such things 20 years ago, I think age must have changed our perspective in life. Without hesitation I booked my flight in no time. I also got Min on board since she was also thinking of going Penang to visit her friends.

It was just a short weekend trip but we made the most out of it. Tiger Airway has the best time to fly and max out the weekend. We left on Fri with the 7:50pm flight and return on Sunday 7pm.

On arrival to Penang International Airport, we easily caught a bus just outside the airport to town (The Komtar), from there we walked to our friend's hostel located at Sri Bahari Road about 15 minutes away. Dickie's new hostel is still under renovation, but the rooms upstairs were ready. There are 4 rooms upstairs with aircon and share toilets. There will one dormitory room downstairs and one room with attached toilet. The location is in the heart of Georgetown, with a bicycle we can easily cover all the sites in a day. Food is at all corners. )

We rented a bicycle on Saturday, brand new from a shop at Campbell street. RM10 per day. The map that we got from the airport is very informative, it list down all the sites with the Street Arts and Marking of George Town. We plan to go on a thresher hunt tour to look for all the Street Arts. Cycling in Geroge Town is not completely safe, even though they have a so call bicycle lane with the bicycle printed on the road, it doesn't mean the bicycle has their own lane. Basically the road is so narrow that the bicycle will have to share it with the car but luckily the car goes slow in George Town area. Many roads are one way street and being cyclist, we will short cut and cycle/push against the traffic. There are just too many tourist roaming on the street for cars to go fast :-) The challenge comes when you exit the George Town area, for example crossing to the Clan Jetty, the main road has lots of traffic. Pedestrian crossing doesn't really work in Malaysia. Thief does happen in George Town, one bicycle from the shop was stolen on the same day, be careful to lock the bicycle to a stationary structure or lock a few bicycle together or keep an eye on the bicycle where you can see it.

We were able to cover most of the Street Arts by noon, we especially like the little kids on the swing and I love the big ginger cat. Some of the art are hidden inside small alley but if you don't know where just ask, the locals are very friendly. The boat art that is at the clan jetty is gone after wear and tear from the heat and rain. Most of them are degrading or falling apart so if you want to see them better make it fast. The Street Arts project, known as Mirrors George Town, is part of George Town Festival 2012. A young Lithuania-born artist named Ernest Zacharevic has made a fame. Check out his website for his art work all over the world.



Apart from the arts, there are old shop houses and religious building built way back in 18th century. Still well preserved and restored. The weather was extremely hot and humid. One thing bad about cycling is you are constantly on the road under the hot sun even thought it bring you to places fast. We could no longer bare the heat after lunch. The only place to go is shopping mall or back to the hostel.

Chai Diam Ma Cafe
There are lots of chic cafe booming in George Town. We tried a few of them, some are authentic, some are modern but expensive. We went to one which was open by Min's friend. It is located at 15 Lebuh Queen. The cafe is cozy and old school. They promote local art and from time to time holding exhibition upstairs. Great place to hang out.

Overall George Town has a special charm, I see it as a nice place to live. Good food, nice people and not too hectic. The center of Penang is the Penang Hill at the highest point at 833m. There are many trails around the hill which can be an easy outdoor exploration over the weekend. ( At 
Batu Ferringhi, there are beautiful beaches and resort to chill and suntan. It is a nice mix of everything.

28 Jalan Sri Bahari Hostel

Tigerair return SG to Penang - S$169.70
Public bus from airport to Komtar - RM2.70

Bicycle Rental - RM10 per day

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Yogyakarta, Indonesia 18-20 Apr 2014

Yogyakarta and Mt Merapi
Yogyakarta is the old capital city of Indonesia from 1945 to 1949. Located at the Central Java Island. Nearby to the city of Yogyakarta is the Mount Merapi literally means the mountain of fire, located approximately 28 kilometres north.  Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. The volcano last erupted in November 2010, killing over 300 people. The famous attraction of Yogyakarta, Borobudur temple was covered with layer of ash up to 1 inch thick, also killing nearby vegetation. The temple complex was closed from 5 November to the 9th to clean up the ashfall.

The city is almost flat and widely spread with low rise building that cover 32.5 square kilometres. We were pretty surprise to find a well paved road system around the city. The first thing we noticed was the abundance of tricycle or they called it andong, a leg powered local transport that brings people around town. We spotted a few that comes with electric power engine and there were also horse cart more for the tourist alike. Both cost around 10,000 to 20,000 for a trip within the city.

We took a taxi to Venezia Garden Homestay located outside the city center (5km away) but still close to area where there is restaurant, cafe, bank, massage and tour agency. There were food stall at every corner of Yogya, and the countless Bakso stand. You will never have problem with finding food.

Vanezia Garden Homestay
On the first day of arrival, we took it easy. The owner of the homestay was very friendly, she gave us plenty of info and let us check in early. We found a local food stall selling rice with variety of dishes to pick from and it cost less than $1. We stroll around looking for massage place but  It was a Friday so most shops are close for prayer.  While walking on the street we were harassed non stop by the andong driver but some were very friendly. We got lost in the area looking for the palace but with a few help we managed to find our way to the palace. Unfortunately it was closed on Friday afternoon. It didn't look very impressive either from outside. A local approach us and started
Batik Factory
chatting with us. I thought he is another scammer trying to sell us something. He told us about batik stall, but he advised us not to go to those stall at Jalan Malioboro, those are expensive and only for Japanese tourist. He then told us to go to this batik factory just 2 streets off Jalan Malioboro, where students are working and learning there. The price are also reasonable. He even got us 2 andong to bring us there. I still could not believe that he wasn't scamming us until we got to this factory. The Batik factory is called Ns Novi Studio Batik Art Group located at Djogdjakarta street. We walked into a small little house full of Batik painting. A staff shown us to the back where the process of making batik was done. Then we were lost in between the batik painting. :-) There were not expensive and some were really great artwork. I could not resist and bought one, even tho I can find this back home. Kareen fell in love with the batik I think, she bought a stack(>10) :-)

We finally left the batik stall and found a massage place called KAKIKU. All 4 of us did a 2 hours scrub and massage for only 135,000. Shiok! When we were done, it was dinner time. We found Malioboro street, full of people (Public holiday), shops, stalls and restaurant. It was very happening! We found local snack stall selling "onde onde" but they called it Klepon, "tausa pia" with stuff green beans or red beans (bakpia), steam "fat kue" (Geplak), "Kueh Putu" and many more. They were delicious!

Sunrise from Setumbu Hill

On the 2nd day, we woke up at 330am! Yah we were supposed to be on holiday! :-( Headed out for a half day trip. We arrived at Setumbu hill, still dark tho. We stumble our way up the hill following a group of people in front. From here we have a great view of Mt Merapi, Mt Merbabu and Borobudur temple. The sky turn from dark blue to pink, the valley was covered with mist and Borobudur silhouette on the right. Just simply beautiful! 

After the sunrise we needed a power coffee, the only coffee we got was the Kopi Api. Well, that will do for now. There is a special technique to drink coffee in Indonesia, you have to stir in your sugar or milk when the coffee arrive and then let it settle for 10 minutes. That will help you not to swallow any coffee dusk from your cup. :-) From Setumbu hill to Borobudur is just 15 mins drive. When we reach Borobudur, the place was swamp with students. They trail from the temple all the way to the entrance. That is shit! It wasn't what I was expecting. A word of advice to all is not to come on weekend or public holiday! Or else you will turn out disappointed like me. ( We went around the temple level by level and try to find a quiet place to take some photos, slowly we became the attraction as well. The students start to approach us for photos with them. It is weird but this made me realised how some people were annoyed by us when we take photo of them on the street. back time!

Borobudur temple is square shape with four entry points, and a circular centre point. It looks like a pyramid. There were carved stone reliefs and buddha statues at every level and every wall. Each and every relief tells a story. At the top, the large central stupa at the highest point surrounded by bell-shaped stupas and statues of the Buddha inside the bell. 

Next stop is Prambanam, a hindu temple. Similar to some of the temples in Angkor but it doesn't look as impressive as Borobudur. There were 8 main temples and 8 small shrines in the inner zone The largest temple and one smaller one was under construction, outside the zone what we thought they were pile of rocks were actually 224 small temples. Only 2 was restored. It was scorching hot by the time we finished. All we want was to jump in the pool.

Our last stop was to the Civet cat coffee factory, we stop by to enjoy some coffee and bought a little pack for myself. It was bloody expensive! 175,000 for 50gram. Guest the pooh doesn't come cheap huh!

We ended our trip around 2 pm, the rain started just as we arrive to the homestay. That helps to cool the temperature down. We still got one of our room, they didn't chase us out and let us have a shower. We got picked up by a pre arranged driver at 5:30pm, that night we headed to Jomblang chalet. The journey took around 2 hours. It was dark when we arrived. The last 1km into the estate or jungle was very bad road, the chalet 4WD came to pick us up at the main road. We arrived in the middle of nowhere, there were 5 chalets, no restaurant or cafe. A group of locals who has have finished their cave adventure stayed overnight in the common area. We were the only tourist there. Our chalet were simple and clean, there is no hot water or air condition. but being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature with the sound of crickets and frogs, who cares about hot water and aircondition. :-) Our dinner were served at the veranda, simple indonesian rice with chicken, curry, beans and tofu. They brought us a BBQ pit too, we thought they will bring us some fish later on but only after we finished we realised that we were suppose to BBQ the chicken ourselves. Haha! There was nothing else to do, so we call it a night.

Jomblang chalet
3rd day, I was woken up by the locals who has no consideration for others. At 6am they were talking and laughing loudly. Can't even sleep in on a holiday. ( The chalet is actually surrounded by plantations, they plant peanuts, soya and tapioca everywhere. That explain why we were eating tofu and tempeh on every meal. Tempeh is made from soybeans, fermented for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30°C. Perfect in this environment. 

Rubber boots

Rope and safety harness

The entrance

Jomblang sinkhole
The way down
Our cave adventure started at 1030am, a few other local joined us from a day trip. The sinkhole is just 50m from the chalets. This cave is brought famous from The Amazing Race. A local adventurer found this sinkhole and bought over the piece of land. He now make it an adventure sport for those adventure seekers.  We got ourselves suited up with rubber boots, full harness and helmet. The team of crew gave us a briefing about the cave and safety. Once they have secure the ropes, we were hook on the front and the back, front as the main and the back rope as a backup. We were then lower into the sinkhole 2 by 2. the feeling of letting go was overwhelming! 

The sinkhole was 75m deep, over times it has been overgrown with trees. In order to keep the place intact only 25 people are allowed to enter per day. Once we had everyone in the sinkhole, we then proceed to a huge tunnel, the ground was muddy and slippery. We have to be very careful while walking up and down the slope and in the cave. sometime we just skid and glide on the muddy ground. The tunnel is about 200m long towards Grubug Cave, they power up the light with a generator when we get to a point of no light. We follow the partially pave path to reach the end of the tunnel. We could hear to sound of river and see the light at the end of the tunnel. The sunlight penetrate thru a small opening at the top of the cave. Around 11 to 12 noon is when one can get the best light. I was dazzled by the beauty of it all. The was a huge stalagmite in the middle of the cave, we were allow to climb up without our rubber boots for the photographic moment. The water drops from the top of the cave released all the tension I had. I felt taken away by the surrounding. It was such a great moment.

We took the same way back out. We were haul out of the sinkhole manually by a group of people. It was such a great experience. I would recommend any adventure seeker to go to this place. Our lunch was ready when we came out of the cave, we were able to shower and clean up before we packed up and leave to the airport.

The light in Grubug Cave
Grubug Cave
This has been short but fulfilling trip. I was lucky to have a group of adventurous girlfriends! :-)

Venezia Garden Homestay – S$42 per room/night with aircon, attached toilet with hot water and wifi.
Jomblang chalet - 500,000rph per room/night with fan, attached toilet

Silkair from SG to Yogya - S$249.50
Tiger Air from Yogya to SG - 1,075,990rph
Taxi from airport to Venezia Garden Homestay - 70,000rph per car
Andong to town - 20,000 rph per tricycle

Massage - 135,000rph
Sunrise from Setumbu Hill (entrance ticket), Borobudur entrance ticket, Prambanam entrance ticket, 2 way transport and driver - 555,000rph per person
Jomblang caving, 2 way transport and driver, 1 night accommodation, dinner, breakfast and lunch - 812,500 rph per person