Mount Bromo, Indonesia

31st January – 3rd February 

My friends and I have been talking about this trip for ages and when we finally made our first mountain climbing trip as a group happened, I was pretty impressed with ourselves for sticking through the decision. But for many reasons, Mount Bromo wasn’t what we expected.

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We first arrived in Surabaya city in the afternoon and because of our adventurous travel spirit, we decided to head down to the mountainous area through a slightly longer route – via a 3hr train ride to Probolinggo followed by another 2hr car ride to Cemoro Lawang, the base of Mount Bromo. After almost 5 hours of being cramped up on the local train and a bumpy car ride, we finally arrived at the mountain base in the evening.

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And here came the first thrilling part of the trip that we didn’t come prepared for. We totally did not anticipate the weather change that will vary from being in the city (Surabaya) to the mountainous area. We experienced the sunny Asian humid weather that we were used to, to freezing 2 degree cold wind weather at the mountainous area. The windbreakers/jackets that we had in our backpacks were not enough to protect the fatty layers of our bodies!

We knew it was going to be cold, but we didn’t know that we were actually embarking on an adventure in one of their ‘bad weather’ season. But like how tourist places are, the locals are always there to save the day. We had no choice but to rent out thick jackets and bought gloves/scarfs and beanies to protect ourselves throughout our stay in the mountainous area.

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Knowing that we wanted to hike up the crater of Mount Bromo with our legs, with no tour guide and jeep to transport us up, we decided to stay at the closest guest house (Cemara Indah) that has an easy access to the start of the mountain base hiking trail for our early morning start at 3:00AM in the morning.

And here came the next thrilling part of our trip. Imagine this – it was totally pitch dark and the only lights we had were the one shining from our average joe torchlights and the light shining from the ‘thousands of jeeps’ that drove past us. I could certainly bet that the drivers were wondering anxiously if these 5 little kids knew where they were heading to. Well they guessed it right, we didn’t know where we were heading to. We thought we will be on the right track if we followed the direction of the jeeps but we thought wrong. The jeeps were basically heading towards the mountain opposite Mount Bromo called Mount Penanjakan where people usually sit at the summit to watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo.

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By then we were already walking on flat asphalt land, but of course due to the darkness around us we could still not see where we were. And by the Grace of God, we were saved by a local on a motorcycle whom out of nowhere appeared beside us. He assured us that for a small fee, he will guide us to the base of the Mount Bromo crater. The five of us gathered in a circle, had our shortest and most productive discussion ever, and agreed to trust the local to lead the way. Till today I truly believed the local was God sent at the time when we really needed Him the most.

Due to the bad weather, we were practically the only ones on the crater of Mount Bromo together with another hiker, waiting patiently and optimistically for the sunrise that never arrive. The sandstorm was pretty bad and till this day, I still didn’t know why we were holding on to that optimism over our safety.

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Here we are waiting patiently for the sunrise that never arrive

But despite the cold, dusty lungs from the sandstorm and freezing sleepless nights back at the guesthouse, we made it work around our optimism and laughter. Here is something that I truly believe in – it is not where you are but who you are with that really matters. Till the next crazy adventure guys!

P.S Check out more photos from the trip here.

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36hrs in Bali, Mount Batur

19th January – 21st January

So here’s the thrilling part – Bali came right after my trip to Penang. Needless to say I had a pretty awesome traveling week last week.

My parents thought I was crazy enough to have the guts to take a midnight arrival flight and proceed to climb Mount Batur at 3AM in the morning. But I’d say, “Why not?” Because the sunrise view high above is beyond magical.

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Isn’t this view just spectacular? MashaAllah

But the decision to go to Bali just to climb Mount Batur alone didn’t come as easy. Here’s a little backstory of how this Bali trip actualized.

Technically, I’ve been to Bali before and the decision to go on this trip was triggered because of the fact that I could redeemed free return flights on Air Asia with my membership points – hello, come on let’s go. But here’s the catch, the timing was undesirable.

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Minutes before the sun start to rise pretty fast

It was a midnight flight. I had a little bit of anxiety issue when it comes to arriving in another foreign country at night. I mean who wouldn’t – its midnight, there’s a risk you might not find a cab, get cheated … and the list goes on. And the return flight was 7AM in the morning.

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Not to mention, I haven’t climb a mountain alone before. Climbing mountain has always been a thing for my bestfriend and I, and it all started back when we were in South Korea for our student exchange in 2014. And well, technically that’s where the comfort of climbing mountain with someone else has always been there subconsciously.

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Spotted here a wild mountain monkey. There were a lot of them by the way.

I had a slight trust issue with the hiking tour operator even though it was recommended by a friend who had used their services before. I think there were a few factors that influenced this – the simple English language being used over the email conversations, and even though there was no payment made prior to arrival in Bali for the guide, the simplicity of booking confirmation made it too good to be true.

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Other hikers preparing for the trek down after sunrise. And the black landscape in this picture is the volcanic ashes of Mount Batur.

It took me about 2 – 3 days to be reasonable and figured that this is all part of the journey of traveling alone and the final straw hit me when my bestfriend said this to me:

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I knew then I had to go for it. And well it was the best decision I made within that week. So yes, my Bali trip was literally just to climb the mountain, go for a 4hr spa session after and fly home at 7AM the next day.

P.S Check out more photos here.

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36hrs in Penang, Malaysia

16th – 18th January

While I was still working, Penang has always been in my list of random destination to travel to whenever there’s a free weekend around the corner – but it never did. So when Air Asia had their annual year end sale last year and had flights to Penang for $88.18 SGD round trip inclusive of taxes, I grabbed it. And without realizing, it was also my first leisure travel trip alone apart from the numerous work travels that required me to travel alone. 

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Random street in Georgetown

Penang was full of random surprises. I didn’t had a plan and almost forgot that I was traveling to Penang until about 3 days before the departure date. So I did what I know best and googled for the best things to do in Penang upon reaching its airport. I came across multiple list and I wasn’t satisfied. So I made up my mind to just wing it and travel to wherever that my feet brings me to.

I love walking and Penang, Georgetown is a great destination to pretty much walk aimlessly and still be intrigued by the random things you can find along the streets. In summary, my #36hrs adventure in Penang led me to discover a few hidden gems within the city, performed my 5 daily prayers in a mosque – my hostel was just opposite the mosque, hiked up and down Penang Hill for 4hrs, and had the best Sup Kambing ever (mutton soup).

But what I loved most about this trip, is the multiple intimate time I had with my own thoughts.

  1. Traveling alone will trigger approximately one million thoughts throughout your journey – day and night.
    And for a girl who constantly have a million thoughts regardless if I’m traveling or not, the struggle came about when I was not able to share these thoughts with anyone on the spot. Trust me, I get excited and thrilled with new experiences or anything interesting that caught my attention easily and during the trip, I find myself eventually talking to myself and laughing on my own to declutter these thoughts. But then I realise, maybe this is just me beginning to appreciate and be more conscious of the thoughts in my head amidst all the noise and clutter of everyday living.
  2. I found myself being torn apart in deciding if I should be myself or to take the advantage of being a total stranger in another country by putting up a different persona.
    For instance, I love having conversations and its always easy for me to strike one with a stranger. But while I was in Penang, I found myself trying to avoid conversations and people in my hostel just because I felt more comfortable being alone. Maybe its the novelty of having the luxury of doing things on my own and the constant learning to conceptualised my thoughts and actions into a memorable traveling experience that triggered this behaviour. Time felt so precious when you are alone.
  3. My decision making process got tested
    Inevitably when I’m are traveling alone, it felt like I’m living the famous phrase “It’s every man for himself.” I questioned myself for every decision that I made especially on the 4hrs trek up and down a 45 degree slope just to reach the peak of Penang Hill in 30 degree celsius weather. I almost died. But I realised, I actually love getting my mind tested in this element – decision making process. It creates this illusion that I’m actually using my brain for something useful.
  4. Traveling alone engages your senses up to 1000x as per your usual usage
    My eyes wander more and I became more aware of my surroundings and everything that is in my pathway seems to be interesting even if its not – probably because I’ve got to figure out how to entertain myself without being judged.
  5. This was somewhat surprising, but traveling alone somehow felt like I was casually traveling and exploring in my own country, only coming home to a different sleeping environment at the end of the day
    And maybe that’s the best part of all of this, feeling more assured that traveling has always gave me the comfort and sense of adventure that I need – always.

    P.S Check out my favourite photos of this trip here. 

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36 hours in Kuala Lumpur

31st December – 2nd January

This year I spent New Year’s eve away from home with my closest friends in Kuala Lumpur (KL). The journey to KL begins with a 9:45PM flight from Singapore and as expected, we were counting down to 2017 while in transit from KLIA to the city as we casually talked about our future trip to India and admiring the celebratory fireworks out of the train windows. There is no better company I would have spent the night with.

It was our 3rd year spending new year together as we made a pact to do our annual trip beginning of the year ever since we got closer back in 2014. And till this day, it still amazed me how God has brought us together in an unexpected time that eventually got us closer to how we are right now.

This inspired me to create a new series in this blog called “36 hrs in (inserts destination).” Throughout my gap year, I might do a few impulse travels to different cities or countries within a 36 hours timeframe which adds up to about a 3D2N trip. Not mentioning the fact that there are so many route possibilities with cheap flights around!

I figured it will be interesting to either share the 5 main thoughts I had throughout the trip or to share more about the highlights of the trip within that 36 hours timeframe. And to start it off, here are my 5 main thoughts while in Kuala Lumpur this new year with an annoying bunch of friends:-

  1. Keep on being spontaneous
    I’m always known to be spontaneous and like how the Malay slang says “Ok go jer,” I’m the #okgojer kinda girl. This trip came about spontaneously and it was definitely a plus point to have my best friend and closest friends with me. Being spontaneous has always made me feel alive. It gives us a sense of adventure which personally for me, is an important element to a well balanced life. One tip that I could share in becoming a more spontaneous self – follow your gut feelings and just say yes when it feels right!
  2. Be grateful with what you have
    Even though this annoying bunch of friends annoy me in many funny ways possible throughout the trip, there were a few times I caught myself staring at their faces and feeling so grateful for their presence in my life. They taught me to always stay true to yourself and don’t let others bring you down – evident from the amount of things we all share comfortably and know about each other and yet we are still #overlyattached to one another.
  3. Acknowledge the important things in your life
    As we grow older, we naturally become more aware of the important things in our life. At the back of my head, I’ve always known that my religion, family, friends and a sense of adventure are the important things in my life. But somehow throughout the 2 years I was hustling, subconsciously I forgot about these important things in life and that got me feeling unsettled.
  4. Surround yourself with inspiring and good company
    While I was in KL, I caught up with a dear friend of mine Ee Lynn whom I met in a workshop organized in Jakarta by the YSEALI team back in Oct 2016. The conversation that we had over an amazing breakfast at Kenny Hills Bakers left me feeling inspired all over again. It reminds me of how I felt by the end of the workshop, and also the impactful moments throughout 2016 that led me to where I am right now. Like how the saying goes “You are who you surround yourself with.”

  5. Everyone you meet in your life, teaches you a lesson
    I believe that everything that happens in life, happened for a reason including the people that we met. And I felt that meeting this bunch of annoying friends, is one of the greatest blessings in life that God has bestowed on me. Alhamdulillah. 

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