Category Archives: Fifty before 50

Mt Rinjani – to do or not to do …?

Just completed a 4D3N trek to Mt Rinjani (3726m) in Lombok with D and it was simply awesome!! For me, the amazing scenery and being in nature was certainly worth the challenge of the long hikes up and down the slopes over the 4 days.

If you are thinking of it, do read on…There are many options besides going for the summit especially if you don’t have a lot of training time to put in!!  You do NOT need to be a marathon runner to do it either, haha, but TRAIN, YOU MUST.

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6:34 am. Still heading up to summit on the difficult “Part 3” of the summit climb. Shadow of Mt Rinjani is the clearly seen triangle shape on top left, while in the centre, in the far distance, Mt Agung (3031m), tallest mountain in Bali is visible. The baby volcano in the crater lake can be seen “smoking” and last erupted in Oct2015.

After this rather complete experience of the 4D3N trek up from the Sembalun route (from the East), up to the summit, down to the lake, and up again to the Senaru rim, and back to Senaru village (the Northern route), (see route map below, and distance/elevations covered on right),

I would say that here are the main things to consider when deciding whether to “do” Mt Rinjani …

A)  Fitness level and number of days to trek – yup, it is a tough trek for sure, and no descriptions can get you to imagine how challenging it would be (especially to the summit, but the route down to the lake is also challenging!). However, …

  • you can always do a shorter trek (many people do 2D1N, just to see the crater lake only from the rim and for this, moderately fit people can do it), choose to see more or see less (2D1N with summit is even possible for the very fit, but need to cover a lot of distance). 3D2N summit and lake is only for the really super fit types! whilst 3D2N summit (no lake) is possibly quite “relaxing”..
  • The bottom line is that the more days spent enables you to do/see more as you go up and down by the different routes (e.g up from Sembalun and down from Senaru, or vice versa) and include the lake and the hot springs there …

Whatever it is, the scenery is beautiful and amazing even without going all the way up to the summit.

(BUT note that the weather/cloud cover is something that is hard to predict, especially later in the day. Early morning starts are essential to ensure getting nice views!!)

B)  Is staying in a tent, going without shower, using a toilet in the field (you will be well shielded, no worries, as toilet tent is provided) etc… fine with you? In other words, can you do without the comforts of home for a few days while being out there in/with nature?

C) Do you have knee problems? The steep down parts are best avoided (down to the lake, down from summit in the first and last part, … ) but the down part either to Sembalun or Senaru village are not so bad (they do still take many hours; see the elevation/distance photo earlier! so a longer duration would be good).

D) Age alone should not deter you … both young and old have done it (youngest was like 8 while oldest was 80)! My friend D is a great example as well, being a grandpa of two and in his early 60s! 🙂

And if you need to see more images to get a better sense of the trek, do check out this link – 30 images of our Rinjani trek.

I was initially thinking immediately after the end of the trek that it would be a once in a lifetime adventure, but after looking back at the photos, perhaps I might do it again!! ;P

 

 

 

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How we got our Mt. Fuji views

One of the highlights of our trip to Japan in December last year was seeing Mt Fuji “up close” … (see the end for some tips if you also plan to do this route!)

Initially, we thought that our stay at Kawaguchiko (the biggest lake in the “Five Lakes area”) near the base of Mt Fuji would be “wasted” as we arrived on a day when it was totally overcast and drizzling, and the next morning looked very much the same; in other words, no chance of seeing Mt Fuji  😦

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No Mt Fuji view on the day we arrived (Lake Kawaguchiko, from Mt Kachi Kachi, access by ropeway or hiking)

The next morning, we decided not to go for the skiing at the base of Mt Fuji (as weather forecast was not good) and to make an earlier start to Hakone, which was our next destination. So, we thought this was going to be the best view that we could see of Mt Fuji at the Five Lakes area  🙂

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Mt Fuji (cookie) from our room 🙂

 

So, after checking out, our hotel provided a free shuttle bus to Kawaguchiko station, and lo and behold, this was what greeted us when we arrived!! The skies were totally clear and Mt Fuji was just … THERE!!

We happily snapped away, while waiting for the bus that would bring us to Gotemba station, where we would then change to another that goes to Togendai (a pier on Lake Ashi, in Hakone). We would then finally end up in Motohakone by taking a cruise from Togendai.

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Kawaguchiko – Gotemba – Togendai – Motohakone (the last leg is by “pirate ship” across Lake Ashi)

When you see the map above, it is easy to see why this route has such great views of Mt Fuji (and also how Lake Yamanakako is also good for Fuji views)… but remember to sit on the “correct” side of the bus depending on the direction you are travelling in!!

Here are some shots of Mt Fuji that we got on the bus ride … (the roller coaster is near Kawaguchiko station, but definitely not for the faint hearted!!)

While on the boat across Lake Ashi, it is possible to see Mt Fuji on a clear day, and using the map, you can have a sense of where to look (i.e. if travelling from Togendai towards Motohakone, it is “behind” you!! see photo below, left, where the clouds almost block Fuji completely).

From the lake side at Motohakone, where we stayed overnight, there are also excellent views of both the Hakone shrine and Fuji! (early morning is best, before clouds built up) (see the photo above right, and also below) .

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Chien, looking out from Motohakone lake side, towards Mt Fuji and Hakone shrine (the orange gate).

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early morning view from Hotel Musashiya, MotoHakone … very tranquil scenery

So, in the end, we got our (over)dose of Mt Fuji views after all!! 🙂

Tips:

  1. the 2 Day Hakone pass is a MUST HAVE, especially if staying overnight in the area, as it covers all the transport arrangements in the Hakone region (includes the bus from Gotemba Station to Togendai, which we did not realise; we only bought the pass at the Togendai pier.  For all our subsequent travel, which includes unlimited boat rides across Lake Ashi, cableway, ropeway, buses, the Tozan “slow” scenic train, the pass really saves you a bomb and any hassle of payment).
  2. Sit on the “correct” side of the bus if you want to take photos/catch the view of Fuji (so, left side if travelling from Hakone to Kawaguchiko, right side if the other way)
  3. Mt Fuji is often covered by clouds, so you have to be on the lookout for breaks in cloud cover (see photos above); early morning seems to be best time to get nice clear skies (and this was our experience too). If unsure of where to look for Mt Fuji, just ask!
  4. Skiing on the (northern) slopes of Mt Fuji base (Fujiten snow resort) – we wanted to do so but skipped as the time we could spare was insufficient (1/2 day), the weather did not appear to be good, the taxi fare to reach the ski resort is very expensive (it may be more worthwhile to rent a car instead; but note that an International Driving License is required).
  5. If staying at Motohakone, be mindful of how to get there! It is easy by bus from Hakone-Yumoto, but not from Togendai. If coming from Togendai, taking the cruise is really the most convenient way. We realised this while looking at the bus schedules and cruise timings (cruise ends earlier in winter) and figured it was best that we skipped the skiing to ensure that we could take the cruise (Togendai to Motohakone), and also get to spend more time in Hakone instead.

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3 things I would do earlier in life …

I looked back at the last 10 years and thought about “3 things” I would do earlier in life, if I had known about them … . It seems that while I had learned and did (and am still learning/doing) all kinds of stuff, perhaps it would be interesting to see which were the top three that I would put down in this first (kindof reflective) blog post for 2016. In no order of “significance”… (1. and 2. are quite normal, but 3. is rather surprising to me, how it just pops up, whenever I do this “exercise”)

  1. Learn yoga
    (in 2007, I started learning Ashtanga Yoga while taking a 3 month break from MOE, thanks to my spouse who had been practising it for almost 10 years by then)
    Even though I do a pretty “slack” practise, usually after my long runs, I think yoga (or perhaps, any similar practise) is a great thing to learn for everyone, at least as a form of physical exercise, although it is much more than that  e.g. as a means to cultivate mental focus and discipline, and to breathe properly.
  2. Learn dizi
    (in April 2014, I finally went for dizi lessons (link to earlier blog post) after my time spent on motorbike lessons was freed up when I passed the test)
    Yup, I believe learning a musical instrument is much better done when young, but at the same time, there’s nothing to stop one from doing so in your later years. Its just a fun thing to do to be able to play some tunes, and for me, the dizi fits me well (e.g. breath training, light and easy to carry around, “simple” in its construction, made from natural bamboo, can take a lifetime to master …)
  3. Wear sarong at home
    (
    haha, this was quite surprising, but it came as quite a revelation how comfortable and convenient it is to wear one …)
    I got a sarong from Cambodia in December 2006, during a CIP trip with students from VJC, but had left it in the wardrobe all the while. Then somehow, one fine day (in 2013, after leaving the teaching service), I tried it and have not looked back since!! Even got another piece during my Bromo trip in September 2015 🙂

And that’s it, my first blog post for 2016!!

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“Random” events from Oct to Nov..

Have been rather busy recently and realised that all these have passed by in the last 3 weeks …

23 to 24 Oct 2015 (Fri and Sat) – Artsy weekend 🙂

helped Mr Ang, my painting teacher, in his solo exhibition, to hang up his works on 23 Friday 2015

helped Mr Ang, my painting teacher, in his solo exhibition, to hang up his works on 23 Friday 2015 (earlier in the morning, visited National Museum and SAM to see other exhibitions)

one of Mr Ang's works that was bought by one of my classmates at the opening of the exhibition on 24 Sat.

one of Mr Ang’s works that was bought by a classmate at the opening of the exhibition on 24 Sat. (also volunteered at the reception for a little while that day 🙂  )

In the evening, went to a free SCO concert at Hong Lim park with spouse ...

In the evening after the exhibition, went to a free SCO concert at Hong Lim Park nearby with spouse …

26 Oct to 1 Nov – tennis overdose week !!! WTA Finals in Singapore for the second year running …(watched at Indoor Stadium on 4 days this year, including the finals on Sunday with the whole family 🙂 and also at night on internet  )

At the practise courts before her match in the afternoon, Gaberdine Muguruza, a rising star from Spain, ranked 2 in the tournament!

At the practise courts before her match in the afternoon, Garbine (accent on n, Gar-be-nay) Muguruza, a rising star from Spain, ranked 2 in the tournament!

Muguruza serve, nice follow through!

Muguruza serve, nice follow through!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always a crowd favourite, Sharapova, at the practise courts ...

Always a crowd favourite, Sharapova, at the practise courts …

World No. 1 rank Doubles pair, Hingis and Sania

World No. 1 rank Doubles pair, Hingis and Sania, after winning against Muguruza and Navarro, in the finals (was actually lucky enough to catch a ball with their autographs on Thursday 🙂  )

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Hingis

 

 

 

 

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Sania

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very emotional win for Radwanska, after defeating Kvitova in the finals!! Happy for her :)

Very emotional win for Radwanska, after defeating Kvitova in the finals!! Happy for her 🙂

and more Concerts by SCO (7 Nov) and Asian Contemporary Ensemble ACE (13 Nov Friday)

A concert for the young and young at heart, based on the theme of "Singapore Food" ...SCO@Conference Hall

A concert for the young and young at heart, based on the theme of Singapore food …SCO Young People’s Concert Series@Conference Hall, Voyage to Nanyang 3

Interesting venue at the Arts House, where ACE unveiled their mascot ...

Interesting venue at the Arts House, where ACE unveiled their mascot. Concert incorporated story telling (narrated by Rosemarie Somaiah, and with dance performance by PARAGRAPH)

Grace Fu, GOH, taking selfie with Mercat!

Grace Fu, GOH, taking selfie with Mercat at the end of the concert Sayang Singapura!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(concerts thanks to Joyce, dizi teacher, for recommending them! becoming like in her fan club as she performs in all of them, haha. She has been guest appearing for SCO, and also a key member of ACE)

 

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Kawah Ijen and Mt Bromo photo highlights! Part 3

Bromo Marathon! Certainly the most memorable run ever, taking place in the beautiful natural setting and with almost no flat stretches during the run (21 km for me, 10 km for SY) … i.e. it was either uphill, or downhill,  and about half on dirt trail and the other half on road/hard surface …

Tosari village, start and finish point ..

Tosari village, start and finish point ..

waiting for race pack collection counter to open ... our driver brought us to relax at this home stay (Kayo Homestay)

waiting for race pack collection counter to open … our driver brought us to relax at this home stay (Kayo Homestay) on the day before the race (this was after the sunrise viewing)

welcome for all participants, including many from overseas ...

welcome for all participants, including many from overseas …

photo taken by our driver, before the start ... (715 for me, 730 for her)

photo taken by our driver, before the start … (715 for me, 730 for her)

just after the start, most were walking due to this steep uphill ... all the way to the top (where sky meets land at right upper corner)

just after the start, most were walking due to this steep uphill … all the way to the top (where sky meets trees)

dirt trails in the first half of the race ...

dirt trails in the first half of the race …and mostly uphill too!

reached the 6 k mark, in 55 min!!

reached the 6 k mark, in 55 min!!

scenery near the 12 k mark of half marathon route (just at the caldera edge, but from another angle, so that Mt Batok is blocking the view of Mt Bromo)

scenery near the 12 k mark (see route map below) of half marathon route (just at the caldera edge at lower right corner of route map below, but from another angle, so that Mt Batok is blocking the view of Mt Bromo)

21 k route

21 k route

10 k route

10 k route

13 km mark, at 9:21 am

13 km mark, at 9:21 am

15 km mark, 9:33 am

15 km mark, 9:33 am

Finish!! gun time 2 hr 59 min 45 s

Finish!! gun time 2 hr 59 min 44 s

We did it!! (just under 3 h for me, and under 1.5 hr for her)

We did it!! (just under 3 h for me, and under 1.5 hr for her)

Notes

  1. Stay near the villages near to the starting point!! but need to book very early as they get full very quickly ..
  2. Cemoro Lawang is NOT a good place to stay, even though it looks quite nearby and a good road connects it to the villages of Tosari, Wonokitri, etc where the event was held since 2013. The road is only accessible by jeep or motorbike, so normal cars (which was what I had) had to take a very long route to get there (via Pasuruan, taking 3 hr 30 min!!, whereas by jeep takes 45 min)
  3. The full marathon is much tougher than what most people who have done it before are used to: think constant inclines, up or down, and much of it on dirt roads and some on very soft ground!! see Bromo Marathon Facebook comments on it from this years’ participants -“21K keep going up, 9K descend and then up and down again, with the last 5K I thought you don’t want us to finish! But we took the challenge!”

    “Yesss..i almost cried all along the race just because the killer trackk..yess..the last 5k was the hardest like u didnt want us to finish first FM..first trail race..and it’s memorable..thanks broom..”

  4. Results! Full Marathon results for top male runner was 4 hrs 44 min!!! no wonder  the comments people made on the Bromo Marathon Facebook page (see 3 above)
    10K female - SY came in 45 out of 209 entries

    10K female – SY came in 45 out of 209 entries

    21K - I came in 96 out of 435 entries

    21K Men – I came in 96 out of 435 entries

42K - first person came in at 4 hours 44 min!!!

42K – first person came in at 4 hours 44 min!!!

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Kawah Ijen and Mt Bromo photo highlights! Part 2

After Ijen, we made our way back to Bondowoso, took breakfast and showered (to get rid the sulphur smell, being in the fumes on and off while in the Ijen crater (see previous post)). Then, we were off to Cemoro Lawang, a village at the edge of the caldera where Mt Bromo sits … (hotel we stayed at, Cemara Indah, has a superb view of Bromo from right inside its compound as it is just literally at the caldera edge; indeed, to walk on your own down to the Sea of Sand which I did last year, look for the dirt trail  just outside the hotel security guard post)

this view from the Cemara Indah hotel; Bromo is partly hidden behind Mt Batok, the cone shape mountain that is clearly seen here

this view from the Cemara Indah hotel; Bromo is partly hidden behind Mt Batok, the cone shape mountain that is clearly seen here

runners for the Bromo marathon(??) training on the Sea of Sand, the day before the marathon ...

runners for the Bromo marathon(??) training on the Sea of Sand, the day before the marathon …

The wonderful sunrise views that my girl and I managed to have a “front row” unobstructed look in spite of the crazily huge numbers of people at the Penanjakan viewpoint at 4 am (this is a high mountain lookout with seating platform, where all three volcanoes can be seen):

this is the crowd at the platform after the sunrise; many people have left to go to the Bromo crater itself, but it is still full of people!!

this is the crowd at the platform after the sunrise; many people have left to go to the Bromo crater itself, but it is still full of people!!

standing on a pillar (rather dangerously) to get a good shot!

standing on a pillar (rather dangerously) to get a good shot! time is about 5 am.

selfie sticks come in useful if you are not in the first row ...

selfie sticks come in useful if you are not in the first row … one of my favourite shots!!

the light comes gradually ...

the light comes gradually …

classic broom sunrise view, with the sea of clouds in the caldera

classic broom sunrise view, with the sea of clouds in the caldera

panoramic shot taken with my mobile camera

panoramic shot taken with my mobile camera

Mt Semeru, tallest volcano in Java, emitting a puff of ash ...

Mt Semeru (3676 m), tallest volcano in Java,  emitting a puff of ash … Bromo (2329 m) is the one in the middle with a cloud coming out, and Mt Batok (2470 m)is in the foreground.

Semeru has been in a state of near-constant eruption from 1967 to the present. At times, small eruptions happen every 20 minutes or so Source: wikipaedia

Semeru has been in a state of near-constant eruption from 1967 to the present. At times, small eruptions happen every 20 minutes or so Source: wikipaedia

this is the scene as the sun sets over the edge of the caldera ...

this is the scene from our hotel as the sun sets over the edge of the caldera (or some mountain range??) …

SY took many shots of the night sky at timed intervals and put them together to create this image!! (taken from our hotel) ...

SY took many shots of the night sky at timed intervals and put them together to create this image!! (taken from our hotel) …

Notes:

  1. the viewpoint can be reached by foot – about 2 hours hike starting from road leading uphill just by the two large antennae near Cemara Indah hotel. If not, take a jeep (which is what most people do, costs about 200 000 IDR per pax for shared jeep, I think) which brings you down into the sea of sand, before heading up to the viewpoint, taking about 45 min in rather exciting driving conditions (imagine poor visibility due to the mist, and many other jeeps travelling at speed in the Sea of Sand in darkness, except for their headlights).
  2. There are lots of jeeps and people at the top viewpoint (Viewpoint 1 Mt Penanjakan 2700 m) even at 4 am when we reached the viewing platform (we left at 3 am sharp from hotel, on jeep this time) … the later you catch the jeep, the more you will have to hike up to get to the platform area, as the narrow mountain road is packed with jeeps filling up the parking spaces along the road side, and motorbike taxis (ojeks) offering to take you up from your parking spot…
  3. How to get a good view of sunrise – when you arrive at the platform, DO NOT sit on the benches provided and wait there … your view will almost certainly be blocked later on by people who will crowd along the railings from where the sunrise can be seen. Walk towards the railings instead and ignore the crowd already settled down onto the wooden benches on the platform.
    the wooden benches, the railing and the pillars ... at the viewing platform

    the wooden benches, the railing and the pillars … at the viewing platform

    You can position near the pillars linking the railings, as it makes for a good camera stand!! which is what we did, or hang your legs out and use the railing for support to steady the camera for shots in low lighting. Just make sure the view is clear of any bushes that may block a good shot ..
    We were pleasantly surprise to find a stretch of railing which was not occupied when we wandered around and immediately decided this was the place to wait … SY could even set up her camera to take these star trails while waiting ..

cool star trails ... taken while waiting for sunrise

cool star trails … taken while waiting for sunrise

(next: Bromo marathon!)

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Kawah Ijen and Mt Bromo photo highlights! Part 1

After visiting Mt Bromo last year and missing out on the “classic” sunrise view (see post from last year for what happened) and learning about the blue fires at Kawah Ijen (a crater volcano with amazing blue flames due to sulphur combusting spontaneously), I have been wanting to do the trip back to Bromo (again) and Ijen. Then I found out that there was a marathon held there as well (13 Sep Sunday, the third instalment of the Bromo Marathon) and in late March, decided to “just do it”: combine the trip with a half marathon finale!

Here are some of my fave memories of the trip and some travel notes (10 to 13 Sept 2015). I did the trip with my elder girl: just nice that she was having her uni break ending 13 Sep, and very glad she chose to come along!! : ) …

best pic of blue flame

best pic of blue flame inside the Ijen crater (Kawah means crater, btw) .. very hard to take because of the lighting conditions and fumes

sulphur miner breaking up the solidified sulphur into smaller pieces ...

sulphur miner breaking up the solidified sulphur into smaller pieces …

good thing gas mask provided by guide! lights behind are of tourists coming down into the crater

good thing gas mask provided by our guide! lights behind are of tourists coming down into the crater

nothing further needs to be said!!

nothing further needs to be said!!

the incredible workers who toil so hard for so little money (by our standards) ... 10 cents per kg, each load is about 75 to 110 kg, carried up to the crater rim, and then down the 3 km path to the base.

the incredible workers who toil so hard for so little money (by our standards) … 10 cents per kg, each load is about 75 to 110 kg, carried up to the crater rim, and then down the 3 km path to the base.

Travel Notes (to Ijen)

  1. All transport by private car, arranged with Trip n Treat (very reliable, whatsapp Sis +62 811 3979 333 or find them on trip advisor for reviews)
  2. Surabaya to Bondowoso (stayed at Ijen View Resort and Hotel) – 6 hours 200 km journey, resort is nice enough with a decent pool, but it is still about 2 to 3 hours away from Ijen, so no “ijen view”, one of the better hotels you will find/stay in Bondowoso). Possible to reach by public bus, but not able to find a lot of info about it (e.g. transfers or direct bus service from Surabaya, timing; take public bus, if on a budget, but must have more time and make arrangements to end up in Sempol, then ojek to Paltuding)
  3. Bondowoso to Paltuding (base from which to hike up to Ijen crater) – 2 hours 66 km journey, started at 11 pm, reached 1 am. Some parts of the road are very bad, very rocky and bumpy, but most of it is fine. Simple food available at Paltuding before starting the hike up; otherwise, there is another canteen halfway up.

    we made it safely back!!

    we made it back safely!!

  4.  Paltuding to Ijen crater lip – 3 km hike, up a fairly steep dirt path especially for the first 2 km, in total darkness. A torch is a must; a guide is useful but not a must for the very seasoned traveller as lots of other people will be going up as well, so just follow them. However, you will be “hounded” by the guides whose livelihood depends on your hiring them, so would suggest getting a guide (make sure they will provide gas mask for you when going into the crater). Entrance ticket of 100 000 IDR to get onto the trail. Rest stop halfway sells food and drinks (basic) and the weighing station for the sulphur is also there …
  5. Into the crater – a steep and challenging path on rocky “path”; needs good balance and leg strength to negotiate safely. A guide if hired will be able to assist you on the 300 m climb down (and later, up!!) with some inclines at 45 or 60 degrees .. all this done in darkness with only torchlight to illuminate your path if going to see the blue fire in the wee hours of the morning. You may be greeted with sulphur fumes any time! Enter at your own risk …

    the sign that all ignore ...

    the sign that all ignore …

6. Sunrise – view is good only in June – July apparently; other months, it is blocked by other mountains nearby.

7. the crater lake (not for swimming, very acidic!!!) – unfortunately, we missed it as the fumes were coming up and blocked all visibility of it … travellers do come and see the lake only as we saw many people coming up the path when the sky was already bright (blue flames cannot be seen in daylight).  The colours of the lake look amazing from the photos posted by others though:

source - national geographic

source – national geographic

(next post – Bromo sunrise!)

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