Coney Island: The Future of Sustainable Recreation

Exploring

Hola readers!

When UN released the17 Sustainable Development Goals recently, the Internet was quick to respond with countless parodies mocking the UN’s infamously idealistic visions. To achieve such lofty global standards by 2030 is undeniably a challenge…but it’s entirely impossible with genuine and joint effort.

Coney Island has just opened its doors in October this year and I wasn’t exactly dying to visit so soon because a few reasons –

  1. It’s a 2 hours journey by public transport from where I live
  2. I thought it would be the same as the other local hiking trails
  3. The haze
  4. So many people seem to be flocking to the place, I thought I could wait for a bit

Nevertheless, I was itching for an adventure so I applied for leave and made my way, accompanied by my partner in crime. Thankfully, the haze situation was not at its peak on the day of our mini adventure.

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 I wasn’t quite anticipating this, but Coney Island captures the essence of sustainable development. This revelation heightened my enthusiasm upon reaching the location. I would say its less of a revelation and more of an underrated value of the newly opened island. The island literally operates on little to no electricity – no path lights or vending machines or anything of that sort (hence, the closure time at 7pm. There are solar powered lights at the entrances though.) There are few amenities on the island, and they are almost completely made of recycled materials. There also is a full obstacle course area made of tree trunks (pictured in the banner image), the boardwalks and signboards are made of recycled wood, even the Instagram famous bird watch arch is made of recycles pipes!

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The mystery cow does actually exist. I’ve not seen it myself, but I can tell you with full conviction that it does exist because I saw a pile of fresh looking cow dung near one of the rest areas.

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Most plants are labelled which really shows the thought that the National Park Board put into this island.

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There are a few beach stations around the island which allows you free access to the open sea – super cool because it really does make you feel like you’re on an authentic island, Survivor style. Coney Island is a real island in the sense that it is an island on its own, but it also its connected by a really short bridge so yeah. The fact that National Park Boards have deliberately ensured that there are no modern amenities on the island (there is 1 self-sustaining toilet, which I unfortunately did not chance upon) – really gives the island a unique vibe that I’ve not experienced any where else in Singapore.

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I overheard quite a number of people on the island saying “Eh, I read online that there are sandflies here leh! Let’s not sit here!” I mean, guys, we are on an island, don’t be a wuss. Sandflies are nothing. We should be excited if we find a few grass snakes too. It’s all part of the #islandlife. In case you were wondering – no, I did not encounter any sandflies.

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Random tree logs intentionally placed at the rest areas to serve as seats for tired adventurers.

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Outside of the island, you will find a place that rents really cute bicycles. I can’t ride so I just had a good time feasting my eyes on these pretty bikes.

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The paths are mostly dirt trails, but due to the lack of uneven surfaces, the island is really a good location for family brisk walks.

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The increasingly popular Instagram landmark – Bird Watch Arch.These beautiful arches can be found at the various bird watch stations all around the island. It’s meant to be a resting place for resident birds – sadly, I didn’t really see any birds around. I’m quite sure that after some time the birds will discover these arches though!

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These tall and thin trees are all over the island. The middle of the island is basically completely covered with these trees – so densely populated that you definitely cant see the other side of the island from where you would be standing. It really is a breathtaking sight.

The true #islandlife concept that Coney Island represents is something that is new to Singapore and a promising sign in response to the world’s clamour for a more sustainable way of living. Is it worth the trip to Punggol? Most definitely, yes. It was such a refreshing experience and I would encourage anyone to visit. There is no hurry though, and if you would prefer avoiding a crowded island, I would suggest going on a weekday morning, like I did. 

It is beautiful thing when we realize that we don’t really need fancy shiny buildings, full blast air-conditioning or mindless consumerism to build an ideal recreational spot.

Before I end this post, just a word of caution for visitors who don’t intend to drive there. If you enter from the West Entrance, do not exit from the East Entrance because from the East Entrance, its a long long walk that will lead you directly to the highway (i.e. no buses or taxis there). If you’re taking public transport, start your adventure from the West Entrance, walk the entire loop of the island and then exit from the West Entrance too. For more information on how to get there, please visit NParks website.

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Singapore Trail: Chua Chu Kang to Bukit Timah

Exploring, Hiking

Hola Amigos!

After more than a month of refraining from exercise because of me frequently falling sick, we finally went on our usual Sunday hiking trail from my house to bukit timah yesterday. I’ve never shared this route before so I thought I’d do a post on it!

This is actually a bike route, but we decided to be rebels and follow this path on foot. Bike routes are comparatively fun and challenging they usually are really plain dirt trails.

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The grass here is so tall – even taller than me!

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…and here are very very big leaves. Larger than life grass and leaves – man, I felt like I was in some kinda giant world. Nature can sometimes make you feel so small. M was like “Eh go stand under the big natural umbrella!!” He told me that cavemen in the past used such leaves as naturally occurring umbrellas. I mean how would he even know. But I guess it makes sense. Hahaha…

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This route reminded me ALOT of the Bibbulmun track in Australia – a seemingly endless narrow path.

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Here my partner in crime is having his moment.

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Singapore does not have her own natural water resource. We get our water supply from our neighbour Malaysia from such huge water channels which we came across along this route.

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See the danger sign above? It’s there for a damn good reason. Bikers love to speed at this slope for a temporary high. My beloved boyfriend used to be a bike fanatic and had a terrible accident at this exact location where this danger sign is now placed. He was speeding on his bike at the slope many years ago and flew off his bike. His head hit a rock and he had to go for stitches and ended up missing a biking competition that he was training for. He tells me that if this accident didn’t happen, he would be a star biker by now and would have not met me. Well, I’m sure glad that he had that accident then! He also says that this danger sign was only put up after he had that nasty accident.

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I mean – honestly, there is NO WHERE else you can actually find untouched nature in Singapore other than from such hiking trails. Singapore is heavily modernized, sometimes we forget that such beauty still exists.

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The only sign of human intervention are these signposts which are there obviously for a very good reason. We don’t wanna get lost in the forests! Then again I doubt its technically possible to get lost in our forests because they are tiny compared to forests in other countries. Either ways, I would be really scared if I were to be lost in a forest even in Singapore. I’m such a coward – I even get scared if my boyfriend walks to fast so I have to always keep up with him. Sometimes he even runs because he knows I would get scared and have to choice but to chase him. Hahaha…What a work out!

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Like I said… this really is a bike trail.

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I have an obsession with weird looking trees. I mean how do they just sprout out from the ground like that.

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I also have an obsession with mangroves. What lives in those shallow waters?!

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So, usually what actually keeps us going on a long 10km trail, is a good chilled cup of sugarcane juice. For my non-Singaporean followers, sugarcane juice is an awesome local natural drink that you MUST try. its naturally sweet and so refreshing almost like coconut water but its green in colour.

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I know I don’t ever feature food on my blog, but hey there’s a first for everything! Above is a Malay dessert called ondeh-ondeh. Its my favourite Malay dessert (‘kueh’) of all time. Inside this balls is melted black sugar which just oozes out like a dream when you take a bite. I love how this particular stall, Food Mapping, makes it – fresh and so very very affordable (SGD 1.50 for a packet of 6). This stall also makes the BEST AGAR AGAR (jelly) CAKES IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

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Here’s my last picture that I have to share from yesterday’s trail. Its a hamburger with patty made of ayam keluak (chicken + keluak). The stall that sells this in Beauty World Centre #04-49 (last level of the building) is called Hambaobao. I love the concept of this burger as it is really a modern take on a very traditional dish. Keluak is the meat of a nut which is black in colour. I grew up eating keluak rather often because my grandmother cooks it a lot. She picked up the recipe of this Peranakan dish when she was living in Malacca during the war.

Okay, this post was longer than I intended for it to be. Hope you enjoyed it either ways!

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Bukit Timah Old Railway + Vivre Activewear

Exploring, wellness

Happy Monday, girls!

I’ve been coughing like crazy over the weekend (still at it now) so I opted for a relatively easier and shorter trek route for my Sunday workout. It was a great opportunity for me to take my new Vivre Activewear top for its first workout trip!

VIVRE: The Coolest Kid on the Block

Vivre is a rather new local activewear brand in Singapore and it has received overwhelming positive response from so many bloggers/ satisfied customers that I just had to try it for myself. Although Vivre markets itself as a yoga apparel brand, I find that their outfits are sooo stylish and comfortable that it could actually be worn for any kind of exercise – from hiking to crossfit to badminton or even hours of shopping (counts as exercise right?) The best part? Vivre is oh-so-affordable (almost HALF the price of other sports brands) and the quality is superb – from great support to lining to top-notch material, what more can a girl ask for?

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On a much more personal note, the Escapade Active Tank is my FIRST exercise top that doesn’t require me to wear a sports bra inside because it is well supported with just the right amount of padding and lining. In fact, I believe most of the active tank tops Vivre offers comes with in-built support.

There is no better feeling than enjoying outdoor exercise without having to wear a bra.

Vivre offers international shipping, and you can check them out here! Go crazy!

THE TREK

I decided to start the trek at the forest opening on the right of Ten Mile Junction. I chose to start here because I love the track there which is framed with super tall grass which is a rare sight in Singapore. The track is also wide and relatively flat, which means that it makes the perfect route for a jog/run/cycle. This route is not known by many, which means that even on the weekends, you can expect to bump into less than 10 other people!

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The path is very straightforward, there are no detours or alternative routes that may cause you to lose your way.  Following the track, you can expect to reach the black bridge over Bukit Timah Road (next to Railway Mall) after an easy 4km.

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These railway tracks are no longer functioning and I’m really glad that they have been left untouched in a few areas (will be updating more on these remaining tracks soon) because it makes trekking so much more interesting!  The next 3-4 km is continues in a forested area (which is next to the main roads, but thankfully you don’t hear the cars much) and you can choose to continue with your trek beyond bukit timah, but my partner and I always stop at Bukit Timah because we love the food there! Food is our motivation.

Or So They Say!

Next time you run out of movies to watch with your partner, remember that a refreshing trek could be an ultra romantic date alternative ❤

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Valley of the Giants TreeTop Walk in Walpole, Perth

Exploring, Travel

Hello again, friends!

There are few things in life that can be more refreshing than a treetop walk.

Since I just blogged about Singapore’s HSBC TreeTop Walk, I decided to share a very similar (but undeniably more breathtaking and magnificent) treetop walk that I experienced during my post-grad trip in Perth mid 2013. I can’t believe its been more than 1.5 years! That was my first overseas trip with my partner and it was quite honestly, one of the best trips of my life – everything about the trip was thoroughly relaxing – from the perfect weather to the laughter and song filled drives to some of the most scenic beaches. In this post I will be sharing a few pictures from the Valley of the Giants, Walpole TreeTop Walk – which is a 400km drive from Perth. We drove from Fremantle, had a lovely meal at a winery in Margaret River, then drove further down to Walpole where we lived in a beautiful cottage for a couple of nights.

I love that all the different species of plants and trees are extremely well labelled – it makes everything much more educational and interesting. The trees are all gigantic – which explains why the place is called Valley of the Giants. When we arrived, it was pouring – thankfully, the rain ceased after we spent an hour reading about the history of the park in the information room.

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Next to the entrance of the Valley of the Giants, you will see a small route that leads you to the Bibbulmun Track. Once we stumbled on it, we knew that we just had to come back after a few years to embark on this trail. Hopefully some day soon!

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Singapore’s HSBC TreeTop Walk

Exploring, Hiking

Yesterday, my partner and I set off for our usual Sunday hike and decided to visit HSBC’s TreeTop Walk again. I love this treetop walk because it reminds me so much of Walpole’s treetop walk (Valley of the Giants) that we visited when we went on a road trip in Perth.

We hiked a total of 12km under the most unforgiving sun – starting from Venus Drive (theres a parking lot and also a whole list of buses that goes there) and ended at Bukit Timah.

If you intend to visit the HSBS TreeTop Walk for a hike, you should prepare yourself for a minimum distance of 10km and there aren’t many exits along the way. Ensure you have at least 2 bottles of water and some snacks (well hidden in your bag, away from the monkeys) to keep you going through the hike.

Funny story – merely 500 meters into the hike, I was munching on my breakfast when a monkey spotted the food and hurried towards me. I was so frightened and there was no bin around so I threw it away to the side so that the monkeys could help themselves to it. It was really quite a daunting experience as about 10 monkeys came running to my breakfast roll. My partner was visibly shaken too and told me that I shouldn’t have done that as more monkeys would come after me, thinking that I have more food in my bag. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Moral of the story: Keep your food in your bag at all times, out of sight from the monkeys.

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Entrance of the TreeTop Walk

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Picturesque view from the top – of trees, and more trees. You can even see through the ground of the platform – so if you have a fear of heights, you may like to get over your fear right here. 😛

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You can see Upper Pierce Reservoir from a distance – my favourite reservoir in Singapore! Click here for the hiking route along Upper Pierce Reservoir.

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End of the suspension bridge, a flight of wooden stairs will lead you to a little hut where you can take a rest (Tempines Hut)

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Take note of the opening hours! Not opened on Monday, Public Holidays and beyond 5pm on any other day.

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On this map, you can see where we started (Venus Drive) but we hiked towards the direction of Bukit Timah which should be to the left of the map, not pictured on this particular board. You may choose to hike towards MacRitchie Reservoir to the bottom right of this map but it would be a really short distance. Previously, we have started from the entrance of MacRitchie Reservoir -> TreeTop -> Bukit Timah which was about at 15km hike altogether.

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This sign tells you that you have completed 5 km. 7 more to go! The 2nd half of the hike proved to be more challenging due to the a more uneven ground than expected.

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Had to stop for a stretch and my 2nd break because the scorching weather was really wearing me down. So yeah, I just sat on the ground since there were no more huts in sight.

Whenever we end our hike in Bukit Timah, we usually have a hearty lunch either at Beauty World (top level awesome and hugeee hawker centre) or Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre which is along Jurong Kechil road. Nothing motivates us more during a hike than a nice ice cold cup of sugarcane and lemon juice. Ahhhhhh…

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Butterfly Trail @ Chestnut Avenue

Exploring, Hiking

We went on (by far) my most favourite local hike last Sunday and I would be selfish and lazy not to share it. The latter half of the hike really could be an ideal location to shoot a whole new Survivor season. Apparently, this trail is “unofficial” which means that hiking in this area is probably illegal as its not open to the public – so you wouldn’t see many signs around. While we didn’t spot any other hikers, there were many cyclists on their super cool mountain bikes.

The total distance for this hike was slightly more than 8km. If you wish to do a shorter one, you could always start directly from the cyclists’ trail entrance at chestnut drive – that’s the most scenic part of the hike and its a 4km loop so you won’t get lost.

Walking from CCK to Chestnut Drive (4km)

We started from the park connector nearest to where I live – Pang Sua Park Connector behind Pioneer Junior College. As usual, M lovingly prepared breakfast for me because I will only wake up for food. He throws anything that tastes decent into the wrap so it tastes yummy but honestly looks gross most of the time.

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So basically you just got to follow the Pang Sua Park Connector and you’ll pass plenty of refreshing sights – really a feast for your eyes especially when you’re in the midst of a plain ol’ concrete jungle diet. Little privately owned vegetable farms, Singaporeans dressed up like farmers digging away at the soil to plant their organic cabbage heads… foreign workers laughing and running in their exciting game of cricket. The marriage of harmony and tranquility practically unfolds before your eyes.

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Once you reach Bukit Panjang Post Office, its going to be a boring urban hike for a while (about 2km) where you walk pass 10 mile junction and many hdb blocks and finally Zheng Hua Secondary School. Continue walking alllllll the way forward (be sure to follow the wooden signs along the entire bukit panjang road stretch) and you will eventually see a pretty prominent neighbourhood market and Kim San Leng coffee shop next to it (blk 268, bukit panjang ring road). Cross the traffic light to the other side of the road at the coffee shop and walk straight ahead, passing the bus stop and overhead bridge. Turn right into the park where you will see the final brown signboard with ‘Pang Sua Park Connector’ written in bold white font on it.

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Once you turn into the park, you will see rows and rows of huge water pipes on your left. Turn right and walk away from these pipes (pictured below).

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As you’re following the track, you’ll notice there’s a narrow side road next to the path you’re on (NOT THE HIGHWAY). Cross over to that road. We crossed over through the bushes at a little hole we found (pictured below with the Bata van)

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You’re officially on Chestnut drive! Yaaaay congratulations if you made this far because I definitely wouldn’t have made it this far without any assistance with directions. Make a U-turn following this road – i.e. walk on the opposite direction.

Chestnut Drive & the Butterfly Trail Loop (4km)

Walk all the way straight following the road (you should now be walking the the opposite direction as you were before you got onto this road) You should walk pass the 2 landmarks as pictured below.

(Alternatively, you could always cab or drive to this road and do a 4km hike from here)

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At the end of the road, you’ll see Chestnut Avenue Waterworks (PUB) and the entrance to the butterfly trail loop should be just on your right, just before the PUB entrance sign. You will probably see a congregation of cyclists resting at the entrance.

THIS. is where the fun starts. I was grumpy until I entered the loop. Amazeballs. You won’t get lost in the loop – cause well ya its a loop. HAHA. The entire dirt trail is literally next to Upper Peirce Reservoir and there are NO BARRIERS. The water flows in as if its a beach or something. Just so beautiful. And the roots of the trees create a stunning formation on the ground. Pictures don’t do such nature justice especially because they are such uncommon sights in Singapore. You really need to go check it out for yourself before the authorities start to introduce infrastructure such as barriers in this area and the essence of the area definitely wouldn’t appear as authentic as it does there now. Construction in this area is already underway, so you got to get there pronto.

Enjoy the pictures!

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Surabaya: Part 1

Exploring, Hiking, Travel

Last September, my partner and I decided to go on a rather unconventional trip. We booked a flight to East Java, Surabaya, with the intention to catch a glimpse of the sunrise at Mt. Bromo – little did we know that we were in for much for than we bargained for.

We walked away from this trip with a whole new regard for hikers and mountain dwellers and even had an opportunity to swim at the foot of a breath-taking waterfall.

This post is for independent travelers who plan to visit Mt. Bromo on an average budget. If you’re scared of not having a tour guide or if you need to be chauffeured around when the going gets tough, then you’re at the wrong page.

I’m a huge coward myself and I had no idea what my cheeky partner had planned so I found myself frightened out of my wits and tired to the bones throughout the trip. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that it was an enriching experience that I never imagined I was capable of going through – given the fact that I’m the kind of girl who usually travels only for shopping and typical sightseeing that doesn’t involve any element of danger.

1. Book a budget flight to Surabaya

We booked a one-way flight to Surabaya as we planned to fly to Bali after the Surabaya trip. Booking a one-way trip should cost you about SGD 80 one way via budget airlines (we took Tiger Airways)

2. Book accommodation at Mt. Bromo

Do not go to Surabaya without having already booked your accommodation. We met many lost and confused backpackers at Bromo who had not done their homework for their lodging and ended up staying at areas way too far away from Mt. Bromo and, well, when this happens, the locals will take advantage of the situation by offering you their driving services which is an unnecessary waste of money if you had planned your lodging wisely.

We booked our lodging at Cafe Lava Hostel which, in my opinion, was perfect. It definitely wasn’t your 4 or 5 star hotel kind of environment, but it nicely captured the essence of backpacking on a foreign mountain far far away – quite magical. The room was very brown as everything was mostly made of wood, and the tv was broken (we didn’t bother making a fuss out of it – who goes to the mountain to watch tv, anyway?) but we had a ball of a time pretending to be authentic mountain dwellers. On a practical note, Cafe Lava is walking distance to all the other hotels which means that food is easily accessible. Price wise, it costs about IDR 400 000 (SGD 43.00) per night. We booked Cafe Lava for 2 nights.

3. Arrival at Junda Airport

Everything will be chaotic, and well – foreign, naturally. There will be a swarm of touts coming up to you to offer their tour services, but do not pay them any attention. As an independent traveler, you need to master the art of ‘the poker face’. Walk straight out to the front road of the airport (whilst maintaining your poker face), look for a DAMRI shuttle bus to the main bus station (Bungarasih Bus Terminal) You will have to pay IDR20 000 (~SGD 2.10) for a 15-20 min bus ride.

4. Bungarasih Bus Terminal

Here you will need to catch a public bus to Probolinggo. This bus terminal was definitely the scariest bus terminal I’ve been at in my life – so crowded, everyone is at your face trying to sell you something, they follow you everywhere, native clamour is astounding. Don’t fret, don’t show you’re afraid, just put on your Poker Face again. You have to walk pass plenty of food and other stalls, find your way through the other end of the terminal where all the buses are waiting at. Ask around to find out which of the buses go to Probolinggo. We didn’t see proper signages around so that was the only way. Once you board the bus, a countless number of local sellers will start streaming in and dropping random items on your lap which you can determine whether you would like to purchase or not.. they will make another round to collect the item from your lap if you’re not interested in buying in. The bus conductor will then come by your seat to collect about IDR 30 000 (SGD 3) and then issue you a bus ticket. Once the bus moves off, the local sellers will get out of the bus and thankfully, your 3 hour journey on this bus will be somewhat peaceful.

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5. Probolinggo

Try to plan your itinerary in such a manner that you arrive at Probolinggo no later than 4pm – you want to get to bromo ASAP before its too dark and you don’t have time to rest before the hike. Once you alight, walk straight to the main road and turn left. Keep walking straight ahead and you will see a few mini buses parked at the main road. There will probably be many other backpackers standing around too. The mini buses are parked just infront of a couple of food and fruit stalls so if you need to grab a drink or a bite, here would be ideal. The driver will wait for a minimum of 10-11 people to fill up the mini bus before he agrees to go. The ride will cost you roughly IDR 30 000 (SGD 3) depending on the number of people in the bus, the more people, the less you pay as the cost of one bus is IDR 450 0000. The bus will stop you right at the door step of your lodging. The entire ride will be about 1.5 hours.

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6. 3 AM hike up Mt Penanjakan to catch the sunrise overlooking Mt. Bromo

This was the scariest sh*t I did in my life. It didn’t help that my hand-held torchlight was so dim that it hardly provided any form of decent light. Thankfully, my partner’s torchlight was working well. I also had my miserable little head light which well, shone a tiny spotlight wherever I went. I knew that my partner had been looking forward to this hike for ages, so I had to suck it all up.

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(Above picture taken just outside our room at Cafe Lava at 3am as we were setting off for the hike)

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The route that we took started at the sandy foot path to the left of Cemara Indah Hotel which is about a 10 minutes walk from where we stayed (Cafe Lava). From there, its about a 5km hike to the first view point. Sounds easy, right?

7. Hike to Viewpoint One

Wrong. It’s pitch dark, super cold (about 5 degrees at 3am) and a fair portion of the hike was rather steep and very sandy. The pain in my feet wasn’t bugging me, but the sheer darkness of the place creeped me out. I thought the worst was over when we finally completed the 5km and arrived at Viewpoint One. Here, there were many other tourists but they are all taking the jeep. They looked so happy and calm, I really wished I could go on the jeep with them. The viewpoint was pretty lively with a little stall selling hot coffee and little snacks. I had no appetite for any of that though.

8. Hike to Viewpoint Two

We continued the second half of the hike up Mt. Pananjakan which is 2706m high. This route was much steeper and uneven than the first half of the hike. For a brief moment, I imagined my lifeless, decapitated body at the foot of the mountain. I shuddered and yelled at my partner to shine some light where I struggling to climb. My new gloves tore apart as I pulled myself up rock after rock, barely managing to maintain my balance on the sandy surfaces. After about 2 hours, we were still slowly progressing and a little part of the sky was turning an orangey-red colour but by this time fear had consumed my being and I was unable to appreciate the beauty around me. The only group of hikers we met on the way up decided that the route was too dangerous and turned back. I looked at my partner with pleading eyes, but seeing him full of enthusiasm to take the less favoured road, I  mentally prepared myself for death. The next 15 minutes, my mind was blank and I just thought about the possibility of teleporting myself back home in Singapore, in the warmth of my bed.  My hole-y glove came right out off my right hand and fell off the steep surface that I was on, into the darkness. That was probably the last straw for me as I started tearing uncontrollably.

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(Tried not to roll down while taking this shot, shortly after my one of my gloves disappeared into the darkness.)

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Well, it definitely wasn’t my day to die as we finally made it to the top and my partner was beaming with joy. I could barely stutter a word. He jumped and ran around and starting taking pictures and I sat down to catch my breath. Yes, the view was beautiful, but out of spite, I couldn’t help but think that I would have enjoyed this view much better on a freaking postcard.

We took a motorcycle down, obviously. There was no way my wobbly legs could carry me any further.

Risking my life to witness a beautiful sunrise – Check.

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