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Gunung Mulu National Park: A Rainforest Adventure

After living in Taiwan for a year, we decided it was time to continue with our World Trip journey. The first country we visited during this second segment of our World Trip was Borneo. This is the third largest island in the world. It is divided between 3 countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. We visited the northern part of the island, which is mostly occupied by Malaysia.

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The Malaysian Borneo has two states, Sarawak and Sabah. Since Gunung Mulu National Park is located in a very remote area in the Sarawak region, we flew from Kota Kinabalu to Gunung Mulu airport. It was one of the smallest and cutest airports we had ever seen!

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Mulu National Park is a rainforest flourishing with great biodiversity and amazing natural beauty. During our 3 day stay at the park, we encountered so many interesting insects and animals. For example, we found this black and white worm to be very unique.

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We also spotted with creepy looking red centipede. It moved so fast!

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This looks like a branch, right? But it is actually an insect–a walking stick!

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These aggressive fire ants will bite humans.  Unfortunately, during a night hike, a fire ant bit my foot.  It really hurt and the pain continued to persist for awhile. Don’t wear sandals when you go hiking in a dark rainforest!

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During a short hiking, we explored a path that was usually not traveled by lots of tourists.  It lead us to this beautiful waterfall–the Paku Waterfall.

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To enjoy the views of the rainforest from high above, we decided to do our very first canopy walk. It was pretty cool to see the rainforest from this perspective!

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The Deer Cave is one of the major highlights at Mulu National Park. It is home to over 12 species of bats. It is also the largest cave passage in the world.

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With millions of bats inhabiting the cave, there is a lot of guano inside. I have to admit, the smell inside the cave was not very pleasant due to the piles of excrement.

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Every evening around 6pm, about 2 to 3 million bats fly out of the cave in search for food!  It was an absolutely amazing experience to see millions of bats flying high in the sky!

Anyone, who is a rainforest enthusiast and has a sense of adventure should definitely visit Gunung Mulu National Park. Within the rainforest lie marvelous creatures and natural wonders that are ready to be explored.

VIDEO: Usually within an hour, it is possible to see millions of bats flying out Deer Cave in small groups. This short video shows a group of bats coming out of cave during the evening.

A Day To Remember: Trekking in India’s Periyar National Park

When you are on the road for a year, every single day is different.  Some days however, become permanently imprinted into your memory forever.  One those days for me was when we went to Periyar National Park. This could have been our last adventure! I am not exaggerating, keep reading.

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It was a beautiful sunny day in South India, and we had signed up for an all day trekking tour at Periyar National Park. This is one of Kerala’s most popular national parks due to its beautiful nature and wildlife. People flock to this amazing park, lured by the possibility of spotting wild elephants, deer, boar, and perhaps even tigers!

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At 8:00 am sharp we met our guides and the rest of the trekkers. After some brief introductions, we were sitting on a bamboo raft ready to paddle across the gorgeous lake.

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Jason worked very hard to paddle us across this huge artificial lake that lies within the national park. Riding the bamboo raft was an incredible way to enjoy the beauty of the forest. It was both peaceful and fun.

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While on the bamboo raft we were very lucky to spot some wildlife. In the far distance we noticed a group of water buffalo.

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Due to the distance, it is extremely difficult to see but we also saw boar.

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Once we reached land, we trekked for several hours hoping to encounter some wildlife up close. Aside from a few deer, we didn’t really see too much. But, I did hold these super heavy antlers that were found in the wild.

Our tour was almost coming to an end. We had been out all day and now it was almost 4:30 pm, and everyone was feeling a bit disappointed since we never saw an elephant. When the group was pretty much convinced we were not going to spot an elephant, an incredible thing happened. Are you thinking, we saw a wild elephant? Yes, you are partially right. Let me explain.

We were hiking in a straight line, and I happened to be near the front. We were about to turn the corner, when our guide told us to immediately stop. Through the bushes we could see some gray and hear some rustling noises. Yes! It was definitely an elephant! Carefully following our guide’s instructions we all moved away from the elephant. Soon we were in an open field about 50 meters away from that grayish wild animal we had spotted seconds before. We had a clear sight of the elephant and other elephants too!! What? There wasn’t just one elephant, or two, or three, there were seven elephants!! Unbelievable!!

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Now, this is where things got really crazy. The elephants immediately noticed our presence and began kicking the earth with their legs and trumpeting! Then the 6 adult elephants encircled the small baby elephant. What were they doing? Trying to protect their baby or discussing politics? I don’t know! But, the next thing they did was stand in a line facing us with the baby elephant behind them. I think they were telling us to move away. I turned toward my guide, who was holding a rifle in his hand. He looked terrified. There was so much fear in his eyes! My heart skipped a beat. Seriously, it did. The guide was yelling at everyone to run as fast as they could away from the elephants or else they may attack!

I was starting to feel nervous; after all I was wearing orange. I would definitely be an easy target if those elephants started a stampede. So naturally, it would be wise for me to run for my life, but I didn’t. Why?

This was the part that made me the most petrified. Jason was so thrilled about the seeing the wild elephants, he kept taking their pictures despite the fact the guide had told us to run. Everyone had already left except him and of course me. I couldn’t just leave him behind. I kept yelling at him to run as my stress level continued to increase at the speed of light. Finally, he ran! In fact, he ran pretty fast! Yup, I was the last one to enter the safe zone! What can I say, I am just a slow runner!

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Oh, the adrenaline rush. I was terrified and excited simultaneously. Check out our video below, if you don’t believe me!

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These were our wonderful guides, who succeeded to keep everyone safe!

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So what happened with the elephants? They were probably laughing at us. No, seriously they realized we weren’t a threat and went about their merry day.

Any words of wisdom from me? Yes. Don’t wear orange when you go trekking in the wild.

Hiking 3776 m up Mount Fuji

The image of Mount Fuji comes to my mind when I think of Japan. It is Japan’s highest mountain towering at 3 667 m. For centuries this mountain has been a sacred site for pilgrims and a source of inspiration for many artists as well as poets. For me, it is a reminder of how perseverance and determination can help conquer what seems impossible.

When I decided to climb to the summit of Mount Fuji, I was a very inexperienced hiker. I had never before climbed to such a high altitude.

Mount Fuji has 10 stations along the route to the top. The majority of tourists or sightseers ride a bus to Station 5 and then climb to the peak. However, Jason and I were motivated to climb all of Mount Fuji starting from the foot of the mountain.

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We began our journey at the northern base of the mountain, near the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine. This holy shrine is dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity identified with Mount Fuji. The path to the shrine is lined up with stone lanterns and tall cedar trees.

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After visiting the holy shrine, we tried to use our map to find the entrance to the Yoshidaguchi Trail. However, we had great difficulties finding it. It was early afternoon and about 1.5 hours later once we finally discovered the right way!

After overcoming our initial frustrations, we spent the next few hours enjoying ourselves. The landscape was very green and scenic with plenty of vegetation. The hike itself was very pleasant and relaxing.

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We eventually came across this sign, warning us how we would be taking a risk by hiking this trail. We read it, took a photo, and kept moving along the trail.

Every time we passed a station, we would get excited since we were getting closer to our goal. We had been hiking for a few hours and were beginning to grow weary and cold. By the time we reached Station 5, it was extremely dark and cold. We decided to take a four hour rest break inside a small hut.

The Japanese treated us with great hospitality. I remember feeling so cold and hungry, when an elderly Japanese woman brought me a hot bowl of udon. That was one of the best udon meals I have ever had in my life. It was made with fresh mushrooms that were grown on Mount Fuji itself! (Now every time I have udon, I always recall this beautiful memory of Mount Fuji!) In addition to serving us a delicious hot meal, the Japanese gave us some cozy blankets for our nap.

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Despite our desire to sleep a bit longer, we woke up around midnight. It was terribly cold. But we were determined. We wanted to reach the summit before sunrise.

Besides overcoming the lack of sleep and intense cold, the other major challenge I encountered was breathing problems. Between Station 9 and the peak, it was becoming very difficult to breathe at such a high altitude. I slowed my pace and simply took it as easy as I could until I finally reached the summit.

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This is a view of the gorgeous sunrise from Mount Fuji.

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It took us about 10 hours altogether of climbing to reach the summit of Mount Fuji. It was definitely an accomplishment. Quite honestly, I never imagined that one day I would be sitting at the top of Japan’s tallest mountain with my best friend! We both felt incredibly awesome!

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The first snow of the year began falling while we were walking around the crater of this volcanic cone.

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Throughout our journey we experienced all kinds of weather (sunny, snowy, cloudy, rainy, windy, foggy) on Mount Fuji. That was pretty awesome!

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For me, descending the steep slopes of Mt. Fuji was definitely more challenging than climbing to the top. It was difficult to get a good footing on the ground since the steep paths consisted of tiny rocks that slid easily. Most Japanese hikers were simply running down these slopes, which of course was actually easier than taking steady short steps. However, I was too cautious and nervous to be running down Mount Fuji!

Despite all my challenges, my experience on Mount Fuji was very rewarding and fun. I learned with perseverance and determination I can accomplish a lot.

A Homestay Experience in Madikeri, India

Madikeri, is a beautiful hill station in India’s Karnataka State. It was here, in Southern India, we decided to do a homestay. As travelers, we really enjoy talking and learning from the locals. So, when the opportunity to spend two days and a night with a local Indian family arose, we were thrilled.

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The area surrounding Madikeri is a trekker’s paradise. We spend two days with our host, trekking through these beautiful landscapes. Along the way, our host shared insightful information about the various plants and species inhabiting the lands. This was some of the best trekking we had ever done. Aside from the views, what made the trekking very special and memorable was the connection we had built with our host.

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Living and spending time with the locals was a lot of fun. We ate all our meals together with the family and shared stories. We even had some time to hang out and play with the kids. They showed us their schools and village. It was interesting to observe how the locals lived. It gave us a better sense of what life was really like in a village. When I needed to take a shower, for example, I was given a huge pot of hot water. This was way people bathed in this village, there were no showers.

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Our host family was extremely kind and welcoming to us. This experience left us with great memories and the desire for wanting to do more homestays in our future travels.

Video: Just having some fun while trekking!

The Beauty of Fall in South Korea

If I had to choose my favorite season, it would definitely be fall. It is a sumptuous time to relish in a plethora of rich and vibrant colors. It is a time to soak-up the very essence of nature.  As I stroll down the cacophonous city streets, I am drawn to the silent, cryptic-looking trees. Their long branches radiate, bursting with lusciously colorful leaves. For me, these attractively hued trees hold a delightful treasure called happiness. The beauty of fall captivates my senses like a lover enraptured by his beloved’s kiss. I happily become lost in the world of reflection and tranquility. Helpless as a newborn, my senses are heightened for my connection with nature becomes irresistibly deep. The mere sight of the brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves instantly arouse memories of my playful childhood.

I begin reminiscing about the days, when I used to absent-mindedly collect the fragile leaves of every color and shape within my reach. Time would stop. Only the rustling sound of falling leaves would bring me back. I would take a deep breath and sigh. Smiling, I would I continue gathering my precious leaves. Sometimes, I would assemble an enormous pile of leaves, and then carelessly leap into it. This simple yet joyous act would leave me feeling refreshed and exhilarated.

Now, bundled in my warm jacket and scarf, my boots make a crunching sound upon touching the withering leaves. I leave the hubbub of the city and briskly head for the pristine mountainside. Hiking among the trails flourishing with ubiquitous trees, is time well spent. Like a breath-taking sunset, the autumn views are strikingly gorgeous. Along the way, I become particularly mesmerized by the gentle multicolored leaves that haphazardly drift with the current in the stream. As the crisp breeze rushes by, I eagerly try to take a snapshot in my mind of all the marvelous beauty this season unveils.

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