Diving, Malaysia

Weekend diving – back to Tioman

July 23, 2015

That moment when the meaning of the phrase “we live in Malaysia, we can go diving over a weekend if we want to” that we heard on day 1 of arriving to Malaysia fully sinks in. Actually, you know what? We can!

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

And so we did. We booked the dives, accommodation and ferry tickets with B&J dive shop, booked the bus tickets online and voilà! We were ready to pack the dry bag with masks, booties and log books and hit the road. You can see a detailed post on how to get to Tioman from Kuala Lumpur here. Getting to Tioman can sound tricky, but it’s very straightforward, just takes time and is complex because of all the means of transportation you take and the waiting in between.

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

I was super excited to try out my new wetsuit I bought in Hong Kong in the outlet mall (of course, of all the things I could have gotten in HK, I found a freakin’ wetsuit). Slowly but steadily we’re on a regular schedule of two dive trips a year and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

By the way, this trip also turned me more realistic about this dream I had – to become a divemaster. I found out that you need to renew your status every year and it’s $400! And if you miss 2 renewals, you do the course again and that’s a whopping six weeks and around $2k! But if I ever become a divemaster, I’ll choose clownfish as my fish symbol. I love nemos!

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Coming back to Tioman was very exciting and reasuuring – the ABC area stayed the same and better since two years back when we got our dive licences there. B&J built a gorgeous shop, a new hotel and kept the quality high. Tears of joy. And diving was spectacular, as usual.

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

We arrived on a Friday morning, did an afternoon dive at Soyak Island, Batu Malang and The Last Frontier on Saturday and Tiger reef together with Labas Island on Sunday.

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Then on Saturday, our only full day, it was stormy, but we still managed to do two morning dives and the visibility was actually much better than on a sunny day!

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Which was Sunday. Sunny and promising, but underwater it was a bit meh – current and dark (the “snow” on photos is particles swimming around in the current).

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Then we jumped on the afternoon ferry straight after the dives and were off to KL. So squeezing in five dives over a long weekend is entirely possible. Yes, you’ll spend a lot of time commuting and waiting in between, but the change of scenery you get is totally worth it.

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Anton, thank you so much for taking and editing all the pictures, you are amazing!

Tioman diving by Anton Veselov via TinyBlackBird.com

Next on: Pom Pom in August. The Diving Saga continues!

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland

July 17, 2015

Hi everyone! So as I mentioned in the earlier post about HK, this trip was all about Disneyland.

Hong Kong via TinyBlacHong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBirdkBird

Having six relatively grown up boys and girls spend a day in fairytale was a great idea. And because life has taught us a bit by now, we went to Disney on a Friday morning to avoid the crowds. Smart move – the wait for the rides was barely more than 20 minutes, which, according to Disney experts, is nothing.

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

To get to Hong Kong Disneyland you need to take the MTR train to Sunny Bay station (here’s a detailed how-to) and take a Disney train from there. I’m serious. A Disney train:

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

By this time we were already jumping with excitement (ok ok, I was) and planning the ultimate route we’ll take to catch all the best rides and see the best shows.

That’s Mickey surfing on a whale fountain. There’s a little light show every hour and the fountain dances to Disney music. It’s really cool at dusk.

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

And here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy:

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

It was raining a bit here and there but it was never a problem. Furthermore, it was actually rather refreshing. And coincidentally, rain synced with our schedule so we were indoors watching the show or taking the second ride on a Space Mountain when it was raining outside.

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

This was my second time to Disneyland, first time was in Paris when I was little. I’ve read that HK Disneyland is not the biggest one and probably not the most exciting, but it was at a perfect scale to cover the entire park in one day. We were so tired and emotionally drained from all the thrilling events that it was just perfect.

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

If you look at the map, we went counter-clockwise: Space Mountain, Mad Hatter Teacups, checked out the line to Frozen special show which was a 3 hour wait (!), Grizzly Gulch, ate a Mickey ice cream (reminded me of the Ukrainian Kashtan). Then we went to see the Lion King Show:

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

Special thanks to the infamous Zebras. Let me just say, they were… captivating and fit. Dads of Disneyland needed some encouragement for the long day, right?

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

Then was the Mystic Manor (we LOOOVED Mystic Manor!), RC Racer, watched The Golden Mickeys. Our favourites were: Tarzan’s six packthe starfish and Sebastian’s ‘under the sea’ (watch that starfish on the left). The links are the parts of the show with those characters.

And we finished it off with “it’s a small world”. Which would have been the perfect closure to the day had we not run for the second run of the Space Mountain. Oh well, grown ups…

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

Guys, I want to thank you for sharing this amazing day with me, La Familia! Love you big time: Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

Because with you guys, I can fool around all the time and you’ll join:

Hong Kong Disney via TinyBlackBird

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

June 23, 2015

Yay, finally! Now that I went to Hong Kong, not only there’s a new category here in the top navigation bar, there’s also a map update on the About page. You probably won’t notice Hong Kong is highlighted as “been” there because it’s so tiny, but it’s there! Scroll all the way in to believe and also get to test whether you know where HK is on the map haha.

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

So Hong Kong. The city I’ve been intimidated to go for a while – I’ve heard it’s crowded, expensive and that alone created a huge invisible wall or resistance towards going.

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

But then it was time to plan a birthday trip (I promised myself a trip somewhere new on my birthday after this happened), and I thought, what can be better than spending a weekend with friends in Honk Kong? You know, why? Because Disneyland!

But Disneyland will be covered in a separate post in a bit. In the meantime, here is how we saw Hong Kong. You can see more pictures Anton took in this album.

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

The place IS tiny packed, but it’s also beautifully contrasting with old culture dancing tango with the modern, with buildings taller than you can see and parks on the low-rise. I loved the blend. To come there for a short trip is perfect. Living there? Not sure… as living in Hong Kong is just so compact. Tiny apartments in huge buildings.

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

It’s interesting, because apparently it’s not easy to get a hostel/hotel licence in HK and the official hostels proudly highlight the cert or the badge that they are a legit operating hostel. And then you pay $25 for a bed in a three-storey bunk bed dorm. Which is what? You guessed it – tiny.

But that would be the only drawback I noticed. Also the part about HK being pricey. But both are very logical and are compensated with other amazing things:

  • the system and structure of public transportation

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

  • yummy food. I totally recommend this place and this one.
  • vibrant night life. The price concern is being addressed by the resourceful party crowd – Google Club 7 Hong Kong ;-)
  • true shopping abundance – up until this day I’m puzzled how come KL is claimed to be the shopping heaven of SEA. They all must be just making two spelling mistakes in HK there, right?

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

  • the views

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

And you don’t have to pay to get the bestest best view, there are a lot of way to discover HK on a budget, so in case that’s what’s holding you back from discovering this beautiful city, here’s what I want to tell you. Just go.

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

So tell me, have you been to Hong Kong yet? If you have, what’s your feel of the city? If you haven’t, would you go?

Hong Kong via TinyBlackBird

Malaysia

Chin Swee Caves Temple, Genting Highlands

May 19, 2015

A few weeks back we went on a spontaneous trip to Genting. It was my friend’s birthday and we told him to not plan anything for the entire day. I made three cards with possible agendas and he had to pick one. One was Cameron Highlands, another – Genting and the third was a fun trip around KL. He decided to mix the KL and Genting and that made a day road trip for the 5 of us.

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

On our way back from Genting Highlands we stopped at the Chin Swee Caves Temple, this temple was built in 1994 by the same guy who built Genting Highlands. In short, since gambling is officially prohibited in Malaysia, there was a guy who though, hey, I’ll make my own casino. With blackjack and a theme park. The latter is now closed to soon become a Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park in 2016.

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

But back to the temple. This is the first temple I’ve seen that has its own Facebook page.

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the temple itself, because I don’t know. This is what I found on the web. “The kaleidoscopic Nine-Colour Dragon Wall of Luck greets you to this magnificent place of worship.”

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

 

“In the grounds of the main temple stand the statues of Buddha and Goddess Kuan-Yin.  Countless other statues from Chinese mythology allow opportunities for photography.”

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

“There is also a nine-storey pagoda with 10,000 blessing lamps and countless figurines of Buddha. The roofs, caves and walls of the main temple are decorated with intricately carved motifs, dragons, unicorns and phoenixes.”

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

“Another highlight is the Chambers of Hell, which takes you on an educational tour of the basic teachings of Taoism and Buddhism.”

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Crisp fresh air, beautiful scenery, vibrant temple, we felt very blessed and relaxed there.

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com2765

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

So if you are in KL and have 4-5 hours to spare, make sure you go to the Genting area. Not necessarily to the casinos (I would skip that part completely), just the temple. And the theme park once it’s ready.

Chin Swee Caves Temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Cheers to friends, weekend trips and seeing new things!

Singapore

Singapore Zoo

May 16, 2015

We were in Singapore only for two days, well, more of a day and a half, for a transit from Thailand back to Malaysia. What do you think we did for most of that stay? Of course! We spent 5 hours at the Singapore Zoo!

Next time we’ll probably do the Night Safari or the Universal Studios. But the zoo is an absolute must see if you ask me! Totally recommend.

I’m inviting you now to virtually explore the Singapore zoo with me. Here’s the map. You can open it in a new tab to follow our route. Shall we?

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

We came at the right time to catch most of the feeding shows and performances. The zoo is so well thought of – you can follow the map anticlockwise and be right on time for each show.

First-off to the polar bear.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

I saw a polar bear once, in Berlin. Have you hear of him? His name was Knudt, his story is very touching.

If you’re thinking “Ew, Olya, those animals are held in captivity, it’s so violent to go enjoy watching them in the Zoo!”, I can understand you. I’ve only been to 4 zoos in my life – this one and those in Berlin, Munich and Kiev. Kiev zoo is plain horrible. THAT’S where you feel real pity for the animals. The German ones and the Singaporean are very clean and the animals don’t really look like they’re suffering. And it does seem like they’re being taken good care of.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

When you see kids exploring and watching these majestic animals live, when your eyes brighten up and you hear yourself childishly weeping “my, this is a POLAR BEAR!”.. that’s the reason people go to the zoo. I hope it is. I wept. Of joy, because that polar bear was so lazy and happy.

Glass+water=funny distortion. Don’t worry, no polar bears were harmed in the making of this photo.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

After the bear was fed, we move on to the next section, the Wild Africa. Are you route on the map? It’s on the right after the bears.

Hello, white rhinos! Fun fact:  a group of rhinos is called a crash.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Another peculiar fact is that rhinos are related to zebras. Maybe that’s why they put them right next to each other. Ohai, zebras:

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Timon, is that you?

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Pumbaa?

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

The Timon and Pubmaa story is real, there has been some legit scientific proof that Timon and Pumbaa are real. Google it, it’s true! These guys get along well together in real life.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Wait, what’s that? Giraffe feeding time it is! Was too crowded to see anything, thus the irony – such tall animals as they are, still couldn’t see a thing.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Now to the snake house and reptile garden. It’s an area where there are.. well.. snakes and reptiles. Not a fan, but Anton took some nice pictures through the glass of the little terrariums:

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Moving on to the Fragile forest. It’s a pavilion with sloths, lemurs, mousedeer and Malayan flying fox aka the scary hairy bat.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

That tiny baby is the mousedeer. So cute, just so cute. A deer, that’s a grown up deer.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

These are the faces expressing the purest of “aaaawwwww”s I’ve seen:

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Oh, and an Estuarine crocodile said hi:

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Walking down the map to the orangutans. I don’t know if you know, but long story short, in Malaysia and Indonesia, the natural habitat for these beautiful creatures is the jungle. Which the governments are very successful at demolishing to make the room for the palm plantations. A friend of mine wrote a very elaborate article, here’s the link.

I was captivated observing the orangutans. They are so much like us. They were just hanging out there playing most of the time. Preoccupied doing their own thing. I had this feeling at the end: who’s watching who, I wonder.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Oh, it’s time for another show, so we went up to the Elephants at work & play show area. This is the performance where they show how elephants were used at work, moving logs and transporting stuff, yet in a very playful way.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

I honestly don’t know how the animal keepers do it, but these elephants didn’t look like they are living a bad life. Of course, it’s not the same as being free out of captivity, again, it’s subject to endless debate. I still have mixed feelings about that show to be honest. I don’t have a solid opinion, I took is as a moment of education and learning something new.

When we have kids, I would love for them to learn about nature and animals from a safe environment like this zoo. I would take them there and share this experience. And then let them take sides and decide for themselves what to think of it.

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

The end!

Singapore zoo via TinyBlackBird.com

Thank you for joining me on this trip, please recycle your map when leaving the zoo and come again :-)

Singapore

Singapore, I love you

April 28, 2015

Finally. After 2,5 years living in KL we went to Singapore! Since Ukrainians need a visa to go there, but have an option for a transit visa-free 3 days entry, we used the opportunity on our way back to KL from Thailand.

The airport was amazing, the city is stunning, yes, I haven’t seen enough to have any solid feel of the city, but from the two days we were there, I can at least form a general impression: I’m in love with Singapore.

Here are six reasons why I love you, Singapore and only one why I don’t.

1. Singapore is clean

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

2. Singapore is easy to navigate

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

3. Everybody runs in Singapore

I have a new to-do added to the list – run a race in Singapore. The city is just so runner-friendly.
Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

4. The architecture is stunning

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Bonus points for having Marina Bay

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

IMG_2329

5. The sunsets are stunning too

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

6. I could walk around the whole day

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

The only reason to not love Singapore is that it’s a bit pricey. You know.. Just a bit..

Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com Singapore via TinyBlackBird.com

Have you been to Singapore? Any tips for our next trip?

Nepal, Trekking

What’s it like: trekking in Nepal

April 25, 2015

Himalayas, trekking in Nepal – something that has been on my wish list for a while now, something to distant, seemingly hard and logistically complex. But what the hell, we thought, and booked tickets last week. We are going to Nepal! On Monday!!

UPD: due to extremely saddening tragic events, of course, our trip was cancelled. If you would like to help this amazing beautiful country and its kindest people in the hard times, please donate to a cause you trust that’s represented in Nepal. Every penny helps.

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 13 - via TinyBlackBird.com

I have never done trekking before, just hiked here and there and I have no idea what to expect from this trip. There are so many ho-to’s out there, endless checklists and things you should take and things you shouldn’t take…

I was ‘training’ the other day, climbing up and down the stairs of our condo and somewhere between floor 38 and 39, head buzzing with trekking thoughts, I had a brilliant idea of asking my experienced friends a few questions. Quite a few people I know went to Nepal over the past few years, so that seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

By floor 55 I thought it would be amazing if they reply and I’d share the advice with others too. So here you go, an ultimate how-to. What’s in like trekking in Nepal, wisdom from our fellow trekkers. Enjoy!

Nepal_featured

Ghorepani Poon Hill

Liuba

1. When did you go trekking?
29.04 – 7.05.2014

2. What was/were the things you were told you’d need but you never needed them.
Food, there are plenty of tea houses with food and even beer.

3. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?
Comfortable shoes and a raincoat.

4. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking? Can you send them over?
No, sounds of nature are the best!

5. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
Nope, just needed good massage after :)

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 9 - via TinyBlackBird.com

Hannah

1. When did you go trekking to Nepal?
March 2014

2. Which trek did you do? How many days total?
Poon Hill circuit and it took us 4 days.

3. What was/were the things you were told you’d need but you never needed them.
The sleeping bag (glad I didn’t take one). All the tea houses had a decent bed and a super thick blanket (like really thick, seriously!)

I took a “second skin” sleeping bag instead, they are super light and give you that separation from the sheets (they all looked nice and clean but you never know right??). For different treks you will have different needs.

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 2- via TinyBlackBird.com

4. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?
The sunscreen (do not underestimate the power of the sun) the mosquito repellent, dry fit leggings and shirts. Something for the rain… we were not really prepared for it and it rained for 2 days, we made some improvised ponchos with thick plastic that we bought at one of the tea houses, it was functional but far from ideal (it was so hot).

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 12 - via TinyBlackBird.com Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 8 - via TinyBlackBird.com

5. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking?
Not really, I prefer to be present and enjoy the journey, the sounds of the mountains.

6. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
Yes, I injured my right ankle a bit  when trekking down, we were going at a faster pace because it was raining, it was a bit painful, wished I had taken it easier.

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 7 - via TinyBlackBird.com
(Joukje and Hannah)

Joukje

1. When did you go trekking?
March 2014

2. Which trek did you do? How many days total?

Gorephani – Poon Hill, 4 day trek.

Nayapul – Tikhedunga – Ghorepani – Poon hill – Ghorepani – Gandruk and from there we took a 3 hour bus back to Phokara, but you can also do Gandruk – Durali – Phokara.

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 6 - via TinyBlackBird.com

Beautiful trek! We were there at a time that it wasn’t too busy, so often it would just be us and our guide. We went from sun to snow, to rain, to hail. It was almost like a 4 season trek. Parts of it looked like a fairy forest, we saw lots of beautiful donkeys, some wild yaks and just a lots of breathtaking nature.

3. What was/were the things you were told you’d need but you never needed them.
Water chlorine or something to clear the water. We just bought bottled water and you can also refill it at the tea houses and restaurants. I also brought a lot of nuts and seeds based on my India experience with food – but the food in Nepal was incredible good and fresh with lots of vegetables. So those travelled with me back to Kathmandu.

Pooh hill trekking - Hannah 3 - via TinyBlackBird.com

Nobody told me to bring all the stuff, but me being a girl, I totally overpacked and ended up carrying 10kg of luggage on my back during the trek which was not needed. I had at least 2 outfits per day, haha! I ended up wearing same clothes most of the time as those are the most comfortable ones anyway. And for toiletries just the basic stuff is needed. Do make sure you can layer up though. Especially at night and early morning as it can get quite chilly. So it would be good if you can layer some pants and also long sleeves + sweater.

4. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?
Definitely good comfortable shoes, second skin, rain poncho, at least 2 pairs of clothes for when 1 pair gets soaking wet due to heavy rain.

Also – wear long pants to prevent from mossies or other insects to bite you. Hannah got some nasty bites when wearing 3/4 pants.

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 4 - via TinyBlackBird.com

5. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking?
No – just enjoyed the beautiful nature most of the time. Did listen to some meditation tracks at some point, but its really nice to just be with nature and look around and be fully present.

6. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
Nope, only got sore legs after few days. So when back in Pokhara walking stairs was painful and we looked really silly when walking.

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje - via TinyBlackBird.com

Karina

1. When did you go?
21-28 March, 2015

2. Which trek did you do? How many days total?
Poonhill Trek – 4 total days

Poon hill - Karina 3 - via TinyBlackBird.com

3. What was/were the things you were told you’d need but you never needed them.

  • Sleeping bag
  • Spare laces
  • Backpack cover
  • Water purification (provided by tour guide)

Poon hill - Karina 2 - via TinyBlackBird.com Poon hill - Karina 1 - via TinyBlackBird.com

4. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?

  • socks… LOTS of socks!
  • fleece & wind breaker (& waterproof) jacket
  • good trekking boots
  • water bottle

5. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking? 
One of us brought a portable speaker and put it in his pocket. We played music which made the trek really enjoyable.

6. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
I slipped on horse poop. They are everywhere. Luckily didn’t have any serious injuries.

Poon hill - Karina 4 - via TinyBlackBird.com

Langtang trek

Kristi

1. When did you go trekking?
I went 25th of March – 4th of April 2015

2. Which trek did you do? How many days total?
Langtang trek up to Kyanjin Ri 4,779m. And then to Thulo Syabru to Dhunche.

Langtang trek - Kristi 2 - via TinyBlackBird.com

3. What was/were the things you were told you’d need but you never needed them.
I really was using everything I took with me. I packed as light as possible.

4. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?
A sleeping bag – even though they have blankets in the camps, but as lot of people have used them before you, you will feel better sleeping in your own sleeping bag. I used my sleeping bag and on top of that I used the blanket. The blanket is heavy and keeps you warm.

It gets very cold during the night, so my recommendation is to bring very warm sleeping clothes. Proper hiking boots, altitude sickness medication, painkillers, sunblock, weather jacket in case it rains and snows, band-aids in case of blisters, meds in case of tummy issues, water purifier tablets. Try to pack as light as possible. 3-4 shirts is enough. You can do your laundry in the camps. Also, playing cards would be a good thing to have.

5. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking?
I had a paper book with me that I read once in a while. But I didn’t have any music with me. While trekking I think the sound of the mountains and nature is way better. Listening to the birds or the sound of the river for me was way more satisfying :)

What I wish I’d taken with me was a notebook to write. I found myself having lots of interesting dreams and thoughts during the trek that I wish I could write down.

Langtang trek - Kristi 1 - via TinyBlackBird.com

6. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
Oh yes! :) I spread my Achilles which is why I recommend to have proper hiking boots. I had to walk for 2 days 6 hours a day on lots of painkillers because I was using my running shoes to trek. That was physically, but even more emotionally hard and challenging.

I also had altitude sickness which luckily happened after we got down form the top. My body shut down completely as if someone had pushed the Off button. Was lying in bed with headache, shivers and could not breath properly for 2 hours. Altitude sickness is a pretty common thing, but what is important is to really pay attention and listen to your body. Usually you can’t feel it while you are walking. For most it happens when they stop to rest. Make sure to drink lots of water, really a lot :)

See more of Kristi’s beautiful pictures on her Facebook page.

Mardi Himal trek

Oflavia

1. When did you go trekking?
My group and I went in October 2014.

2. Which trek did you do? How many days total?
We went to Mardi Himal Trek and it was 6 days and 5 nights.

Mardi Himal trek - Oflavia - via TinyBlackBird.com

3. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?
Most of the stuff that I was asked to bring was necessary (if you book your trip with the guide, the guide would usually send you a list of things you need on that particular trek – Olya).

Few things that I think can be compromised are: backpack cover, trekking poles (the guide can cut bamboo for you), spare laces. But as for the clothes, just bring very little since for the first few days you’re gonna be mostly sweaty, and the rest of the days you’re going to be freezing cold.

4. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?
I think the must thing to do is to have proper trekking boots and a high quality backpack. Poncho was a must for me because there’s a good chance of it rain and it’s very uncomfortable walking wet. Sleeping bag is a must too, it might be so cold that blanket provided won’t be enough.

5. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking?
I listened to Coldplay’s “Ghost Stories” most of the time :)

Pooh hill trekking - Hannah - via TinyBlackBird.com

6. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
I didn’t have any injuries, just minor altitude sickness during trekking to the top.

Check out Oflavia’s project Findwhere for more pictures from Nepal.

Hiranya

Mardi Himal trekking - Hiranya - via TinyBlackBird.com

1. When did you go trekking?
October 2014

2. Which trek did you do? How many days total?
Mardi Himal, 8 days.

3. What was/were the things you were told you’d need but you never needed them.
Medication for altitude sickness. Thought I would be sensitive to this. Instead what I did was to have garlic soup every day and never experienced any altitude sickness!

4. What was/were the things that you think are an ABSOLUTE must on a trek?

  • Good Trekking Boots! (High cut if possible as it reduces the chances of your ankle getting sprained)
  • QUICK DRY TOWEL. oh-my-god!
  • Counterpain
  • Universal Adapter with multiple USB ports (Plug points are limited so with this you can share and charge two phones at once! :D)
  • If you would be facing leeches, to avoid them crawling up your leg, wear leggings or trekking pants with the option to seal the bottom!

5. Did you listen to any music/audiobooks while trekking? Can you send them over?
Coldplay mainly.

6. Did you have any injuries? Or other health-related issues?
Nope! Maybe some slips and slides here and there but nothing major

Pooh hill trekking - Joukje 14 - via TinyBlackBird.com

Thank you so much ladies for the great insights and for the stunning pictures – all photos in this post are by these beautiful girls. You can hover over a picture to see which trek it’s from.

I feel much more knowledgeable now, confident and solid with my initial intention to just go for it without all the worries and doubts, I have the boots, so I should be fine, right?

Can you try to guess which trek I’m taking?

Thailand

White Temple

April 23, 2015

Here’s to the weirdest tourist attraction I’ve visited. It’s so made up and fake, it hurts. It also literally hurts your eyes, because it’s SO WHITE! Wait, what?

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

The White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun is a very popular tourist trap attraction of Northern Thailand. You just don’t see the parking lot filled with buses, trust me, they’re there.

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

The thing is technically not a real temple, it’s a “contemporary art exhibit“.  So if you go, don’t expect a temple, it looks like one, but is art. With time, I’ve learnt to not expect anything from anything. Especially art.

Why so dramatic, you may ask? Read on.

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Check this out. You see that bridge? There’s apparently a lot of symbolism put to it. At the bottom, those are arms and heads. Yeah. This is what the wiki says: “In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire. The bridge proclaims that the way to happiness by is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire.” Right.

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

It gets better. “Inside the temple, the decor swiftly moves from pristine white to fiery and bewildering. Murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddy Kruger, and a T-800 series Terminator. Images of nuclear warfare, terrorist attacks, and oil pumps hammer home the destructive impact that humans have had on earth. The presence of Harry Potter, Superman, and Hello Kitty confuses the message somewhat, but the overall moral is clear: people are wicked.”

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

No photos were allowed inside, but thanks to the internet, we can have a look at what the wicked people can come up with if they have lots of money and no sense of appropriateness whatsoever.

But enough ranting. Look at these two cuties instead:

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

It was so hard to keep eyes open for the photos because the thing is white, it’s embedded with glass mirrors (the darker elements you see on pictures are actually mirror glass). So yours truly looked like a squinching serial killer on all pictures but this one.

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

Chiang Rai White temple via TinyBlackBird.com

White house… If you happen to be around Chiang Mai, do check it out and then go to the Black house for a breath of fresh air, smart witty art and, well, a good contrasting rest to the eyes.

Thailand

Chiang Mai night market

April 21, 2015

Chiang Mai night market, also known as Ching Mai night bazaar happens on Sundays, after 6pm or so. It is very crowded, yes, but it’s a good entertainment to walk around and watch people, artists, crafts and try the food from the stalls.

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Where’s Waldo? Can you spot me on the picture above?

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

As a result of “ooh, what’s there, let’s check it out, oh! it’s a market!” we’ve bought a singing bowl (supposedly Nepalese, but it sings so nicely we didn’t care that much for the authenticity), a wooden frog and a black and white bag for the Tiny Black Box giveaway. And a few nice postcards from a local photographer.

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Our friend got a few pillowcases, a wooden moose, a few coconut bowls and a few other things that I forgot by now, but you get the idea – there are just so many craftsy things on that market! Anyone will get excited.

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Pro tips to the night bazaar shopping

  • don’t buy right away, walk around, there will be more stalls with the similar thing, 90% that it will. If you don’t find anything similar to what you liked, go back, it’s a deal
  • bargain, you can surely get 20-30% off, some things are just too overpriced
  • don’t get the first street food that you saw other people eating. Chances are, you’ll find better options along the way into the heart of the market. I got some passionfruit lemonade, but it had so much sugar it was impossible to drink. 10 minutes later found a stall with ‘sugar free passion fruit’ all over it. And five more 100m later. Duh
  • after you walk around and see that most of the sellers sell the same thing, you get relaxed and enjoy noticing truly unique crafts and artists making them
  • please ask if you can take pictures. Most of them don’t mind, but it’s simply polite
  • be aware of your personal belongings, have your bag in front and don’t take your valuables to the market.

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

But gosh, there are so many people. And the bazaar is huge. It takes over most of the city center.

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com

And that’s a wrap for Chiang Mai! Here are all three posts about it.

Lovely city, will definitely come back for a long weekend and for some hiking.

Chiang Mai night market via TinyBlackBird.com