Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Xi'an Free-and-easy Tour

This is the first time that I embarked on a free-and-easy travel. I followed KM Cheng – an experienced traveller who has visited 73 countries – for this Xi’an China tour from 10 to 21 May 2017. Google: KM Cheng travel blog, or click here.

Xi'an 西安 – Terracotta Army Museum, Drum & Bell Tower, Muslim Street, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda; 

Yan'an 延安 – Mao Zedong's revolutionary base, Hukou Waterfall;

Kaifeng开封 – Memorial Temple of Lord Bao, Kaifeng Fu (开封府), Millennium City Park (清明上河园);

Zhengzhou 郑州 – Yellow River Scenic Area, Emperor Yan & Emperor Huang Square;

Tianshui 天水 – Maijishan grottoes.

Do CLICK HERE for the photo album (90 photos).

 Terracotta Army Museum of Xi'an 西安

All these while, I visit overseas tourist places via packaged tours. The good thing about free-and-easy travel is that one can have more time to visit a place. The tedious part is that one has to travel by public transport such as normal trains, high-speed trains, MRT, buses or taxi. 

Entrance Fees – Almost all historical or nature sites in China require one to pay entrance fees. For sites classified as maximum 5A (AAAAA) rating, the most expensive one has to be the Terracotta Army Museum at Xi'an where the entrance fee is CNY150 (equivalent to RM95); next is Millennium City Park (清明上河园) at Kaifeng 开封 for CNY120 (RM75); follow by Hukou Waterfall for CNY100 (RM63) at Yan'an 延安. The others are around CNY60 (RM38). (exchange rate: RM 63 for CNY100)
 Terracotta Army

High-speed Train – We took the ultra-modern, high-speed train from Xi'an 西安 to Zhengzhou 郑州. Travelling at a maximum speed of 300km/hr, the high-speed train is almost three times the speed of the normal train; and the train fare is almost three times more expensive – CNY520 (RM330) for a return trip.

Public Transport – That was the first time I took public transport in China. For the few cities/towns that I have been, the network of transport system integrating trains, MRTs and buses is superb and advanced. The passengers are orderly and with good manners, so are the bus drivers who discharged their duty professionally. At Yan’an, 80% of the bus drivers were ladies. At the tourists’ attraction areas, there were special buses plying routes to take one to the tourist/scenic areas at a nominal fare of CNY1 or 2 for the entire course. 
 Mao Zedong's revolutionary base at Yan'an 延安 ... Mao Zedong's residence: the house is built into the hill for two reasons: it is cooling inside, and to avoid detection during air raid by the Japanese

Security Check – Stringent security check much like airport check-in is enforced at every entry point of MRT stations and train stations. At MRT stations, water bottles are scanned with a special machine; but at train stations, without the special machine, the officers would request one to drink a mouthful. I was informed that the process is to deter one to bring in acid/harmful liquid disguised as drinking water that would cause mass harm when boarding the public transport.
 Hukou Waterfall at Yan'an 延安

Weather – The weather at Xi'an was getting hotter from 17 May onwards; in the afternoon, it was as hot as in Kuala Lumpur (though the air was drier and not that humid). In the evening, one could walk around with a normal T-shirt (without the jacket) and pants.

Expenses – Excluding Air Asia flight ticket, my total expenses were about RM2,000 (CNY3,175) for the 11-day travel that included accommodation, food, transport, and entrance fees.
 Emperor Yan & Emperor Huang Square at Zhengzhou 郑州
 Giant Wild Goose Pagoda at Xi'an 西安
 Maijishan grottoes at Tianshui 天水 where artistic sculptures and statues cut into the side of a vertical rock face
Drum & Bell Tower at Xi'an 西安

Posted by KC Leong

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Maxwell Hill Taiping Hiking

Hiking up to the gardens of Bukit Larut via waterfall trails on 6 May 2017 ... It was formerly called Maxwell Hill of Taiping. The event was organized by Kim Thai and Chan How Nean, both hometowns are from Taiping. 

One way to the hill gardens at an altitude of 1036 meters is about 4 hours, with relaxing time at the waterfall and eating breakfast at Hut #3. The hut is complete with cooking utensils, gas, tap water from the mountains and a toilet that one can take bath. The utensils are locked in different metal lockers and open by respective group owners.

While waiting for the jeep to descend the mountain, we hiked up to Cendana Hut (1128m) but the bungalow was closed on that day. Started the hike at 7:30 a.m., we boarded the jeep at 2:30 p.m. for a 7-hour outing. While negotiating the many hairpin corners by the jeep journey, we actually hiked quite a distance up the hill resorts.

Do CLICK HERE to view 195 photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).

 Arriving at the trailhead of Bukit Larut
 At the waterfall area ... we went up to Hut #3 via the waterfall trails
 Arriving at Hut #3 for breakfast, and then continue the hiking journey via tar road
 The garden of Maxwell Hill ... (left) Kellie, Michelle Wong and TehWE 

TehWE and Michelle Wong with the high-jumping pose
 The garden of Maxwell Hill
 Taking a breather ... preparing and savoring some hot drinks; (left) Kellie, Michelle Wong and KC Leong.
 Bukit Larut cafeteria 
 At Bukit Larut garden and also the jeeps terminal
 At Cendana Hut ... (front) Kim Thai, Liang Lin, Chia Chee Fen, Michelle Wong
 At Cendana Hut
 Post hiking (the following morning)... Mangrove Swamp at Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld)
 Visiting charcoal factory at Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld)
 Seafood lunch at Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld)
Sumptuous seafood lunch of fish, prawn and crab

Do CLICK HERE to view photos of my previous Maxwell Hill outing where we put up a night at Cendana Hut.

Posted by KC Leong

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Snow Mountain Post-Hiking

After descending from Snow Mountain (24-26 April 2017), the group went for sightseeing at the following attractions of Taiwan:

Walking around Wuling Farm Resort (武陵農場);
Yilan Coast (宜蘭);
Fulong Old Coaling Tunnel (舊草嶺隧道)
Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園);
Jiufen Old Streets (九份);
Shifen Waterfall Park (十分大瀑布);
Shifen Old Streets (十分老街) (releasing sky lanterns).

Do CLICK HERE to view photos courtesy of yours truly (KC Leong).
 At Yehliu Geopark
George Siew, TehWE, Michelle Wong
 At Yehliu Geopark
Michelle Wong with the elegant high-jumping pose at Yilan coast
 Ah ... please don't go! (At Badouzi railway station, Keelung)
 Shifen Waterfall  - double rainbow
 Shifen Old Streets - releasing sky lanterns ... Michelle Wong and Karen Yeoh
 From the opposite end ... yours truly, KC
Karen Yeoh's sweet smile

Posted by KC Leong

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Snow Mountain (Syue Shan) Taiwan

Trekking up Snow Mountain 雪山 (Syue Shan) of Taiwan from 22-29 April 2017 with actual hiking dates from 24-26 April, 3D2N ... at an altitude of 3,886m, Snow Mountain is the second highest mountain in Taiwan. 

The team put up one night at Wuling Farm Resort (武陵農場) (1,740m) before the hike; it is the trail head of Snow Mountain and it is also a tourists attraction farm in Heping District, Taichung. From Taipei, it is about 6 hours of bus journey to Wuling Farm Resort. 

Trekking Schedule:

Day 1 – 6 hours of hiking to 369 Lodge (三六九山莊) (in drizzle for the entire journey)
Day 2 – 4 hours of hiking to Snow Mountain peak
Day 3 – 4 hours descent to trailhead from 369 Lodge (in drizzle for the entire journey)

Temperature at 369 Lodge at night is 5 ºC; hence, a good sleeping bag is critical for a comfortable sleep. My 65-litre Deuter backpack weighted almost 18kg that included common ration for the group. The food for cooking was equally distributed and help carried by each team members to 369 Lodge.

Do CLICK HERE to view 168 photos courtesy of yours truly, KC Leong. For viewing via smartphone, maximum zoom in is possible.

 A complete group photo while having dinner at Wuling Farm Resort; seated front, left is the committed bus driver who fetch us around for the entire trip

The weather – as informed by the experienced bus driver, the month of April is a rainy month. The rain comes in fine drizzle that can last a whole day or even a few days. For a drier month, hike between mid-May to mid-June. The rain and typhoon will come again from July onward.

The bus driver – his name is Chow and with respect, we called him Chow ker (bro Chow). It is almost same sound as Chaw Ge, a Malaysian Chinese singer based in Taiwan. During his younger days, he is an avid outdoor person who can trek in the mountains for 47 continuous days.
 Getting ready at the trailhead, which is within Wuling Farm Resort

Trails to the peak – This is a pleasant and safe mountain to hike with well-marked trails. Unlike other trails where both sides are cliff (e.g. Mount Rinjani, Lantau HK Peak, etc) and pose the danger of falling off the cliff, there isn’t such experience at the trails of Snow Mountain. Gaining elevation is very gradual and one does not need to have sudden surge of power for ascent, worsen by the heavy backpack. Though the journey to the summit and return can be hurriedly done in 2D1N, completing the journey in 3D2N would be a better option. Putting up extra night at 369 Lodge is a nice experience to have more time to enjoy the nature.

Hiking in snow – We were told that one Malaysian slipped and fell to his death during winter hiking where the trails were covered with snow.  

 Arriving at Qika Lodge which is about one hour from the trailhead
 A scenic view en route to 369 Lodge ... the white circle is the helicopter landing pad (for emergency evacuation)
 Arriving at 369 Lodge ... outdoor dining table
 Bunk beds with 1cm think rubberize mattress ... one must bring a good sleeping bag
 Kitchen area that can cater for multiple groups' cooking needs; there are two taps with ample supply of mountain water during the wet months
 Our group preparing the food for cooking dinner; the other group is training for outdoor survival skill
 A clean toilet but without water; thus, the toilet is smelly
 Day 2 morning ... the team is getting ready to hike to Snow Mountain peak
 Heading towards Black Forest ... the 369 Lodge is at the lower end of the hill
 Unique and scenic view of Black Forest
 The misty Black Forest with the dense pine tress
Arriving at Snow Mountain peak ... (Front, left) Wee, Michelle Wong, TehWE, Evie Chen; (back, left) PhoonKF, Ginger Lee, George Siew, Karen Yeoh, Karen Lee, Yoong, KC Leong.

Posted by KC Leong

Saturday, April 08, 2017

KDCF Trail Run

Trail running at Kota Damansara Community Forest (KDCF) starting from Taman Rimba Riang, Seksyen 9 for a round trip of about 13km in 3 hr 30 min on Saturday 8 April 2017. En route to Seksyen 10 and return, the group detoured to Denai Peak.

Do CLICK HERE to view photos courtesy of yours trully (KC Leong).

 Trailhead at Taman Rimba Riang ... (left) Jamie See, June Lau, Lina, Mei Ying, George Siew, ChongYF, David Chung, Celes Yap, Elsie Liew, Christine Yap, KC Leong
 Useful and new trail map of Kota Damansara Community Forest
 The happy cho-cho train 
 Admiring the landscape at Denai Peak
 At Denai Peak
At Seksyen 10, the other end of the trailhead

Posted by KC Leong