Stayed 2 nights in Copenhagen. It was early November, there were pretty autumn trees lining the street but the sky was always gloomy and it rained almost the whole day.
The Danes were all very tall and they had long strides and walk very fast. There are bicycles everywhere. They commute by bicycle every day regardless the weather.
Amalienborg Palace, the closest we got to the Royals in Denmark.
The Little Mermaid from the lovely fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen was one of Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attractions. The sculpture turned 100 in the year 2013. Perched on a rock in the water at the Langelinje Pier, she stares longingly towards the shore hoping to catch a glimpse of her beloved prince. Unfortunately, akin to the sad and poignant fairytale, the sculpture was victim to vandalism. Twice she lost her head, once her arm was sawed off and paint poured on her several times.
One of the best lunch spots in Copenhagen got to be Torvehallerne. There are over 60 stands selling everything from fresh fish, meat, vegetables and fruits to gourmet chocolates, coffee, species and cheese. There are also food stalls to grab a quick bite and takeaways.
Nyhavn with the beautiful and colourful townhouses and old ships lined along the canal. Nyhavn was originally a commercial port where ships from around the world would dock. Today, they are dominated with classy restaurants entertaining people with jazz music and food. It was a pity I did not get the chance to enjoy much of it due to the heavy rain and the short daylight in late autumn.
We entered the glittering shop – Greg Jensen at Str∅get and were being presented with glasses of champagne. “What’s the occasion?” “Oh, we are celebrating Friday!” Wow, isn’t this great? TGIF!!! 😀
The Yuanyang Hani Terrace scenic spot, about 370km away from its provincial capital Kunming is located in Yuanyang County with a low altitude at 144 meters rising to 2,939.60 meters. The scenic spot is divided into four landscape regions: Laohuzui (老虎嘴), Bada (坝达), Duoyishu (多依树) and Qingkou (箐口) terraced landscape. To enter these 4 spots to view the terraced landscape, you need to purchase a tourist pass which cost 100 yuan. Well, it is actually just a platform built to have a better view of the terraces. There are other places to view them as well, that is if you have the time to go search for it.
Our 1st full day in Yuanyang, we got our guesthouse to arrange a mini van with driver for a day trip to major scenic spot for 350 yuan.
Ai village (爱村) –> Azheke village (阿者科古村落) –> Laoyingzui (老鹰嘴) –> Shengcun village (胜村) for lunch –> Bada scenic spot (坝达景观) –> Quanfuzhuang (全福庄) –> Qingkou (箐口) –> Laohuzui (老虎嘴) for sunset.
Close-up of the terraces @ Ai Village (爱村)
My favourite place to enjoy the view of the rice terraces had to be Laoyingzui (老鹰嘴). A narrow road in and not frequent by tour buses meaning you can sit at the edge of the cliff and enjoy the view peacefully, but please be careful to not fall.
We did not buy the tourist pass but somehow managed to enter into the Bada scenic spot (坝达景观). Bada is a direct translation from the Hani language which means the nearest place to the sky. Known to be the best place to view the sunset. Bada terrace is huge! Starting from the 800 meters above sea level at the Masu river and climbs up along the mountains, the steep terraces extended to more than 2000 meters above sea level.
Ended the day at Laohuzui (老虎嘴) for sunset. Well, no pass means we cannot enter the scenic spot to view the sun set over the rice terraces. We had wanted to just stand along the road to see but it got crowded and dangerous as more cars and buses came and soon became a jam. We found an opening where a narrow and steep path leads us to a small open area with full and unblock view of the terraces. Bravo!
Guesthouse – Cliffhouse (悬崖居)
This is the ONE! The guesthouse to stay in Yuanyang! The guesthouse sits right on the terrace field in Duoyishu village. A very cozy guesthouse run by Mr Greg Chen. He is very chatty and will recommend you the best way to explore Yuanyang, advise you on transports alternative, etc. He has been a great host to us in Yuanyang. A coffee lover himself, he will serve you his best coffee while you mesmerise at the sunrise but do not ask him for sugar or milk, he only serves coffee black. All rooms face the east, thus perfect for sunrise views. He must have wanted all his customer to appreciate the beauty of nature, all windows are without a curtain. Enjoy the warming sunrise, amazing cloud sea and sparkling night sky right from the room.
We allocated 3 nights in Yuanyang, thus decided to stay in their best room — Dragon room on the 4th level with our very own balcony. There are only 3 rooms with balcony, the rest are standard rooms. For rooms without balcony, one can go to the rooftop for the views. As it is his most prized room, he requested us to put 500yuan deposit via Alipay. Thanks to dear friend Cat Sum who currently is working in Shanghai who helped us to put in the deposit. (Hover over the pics to see the captions!)
The cafe / dining area
The room we stayed
Very aromatic coffee
It’s a pity that on our 2nd day stay, there’s a sudden change in the weather, it drizzled a bit, and the clouds started to come in and the whole place was engulfed in clouds. Greg had wanted to bring us trekking but had to abort it. Nevertheless, we took this chance to relax in the guesthouse sipping red wine, trekked a little at the rice terraces near the guesthouse and walk around Duoyishu town.
On the day we left Yuanyang for Kunming, coincidentally was also the market day (赶集) at Shengcun village (胜村). Shengcun is located in between Bada and Duoyishu. During the market day, the Yi and Hani minorities come from the whole region to sell, exchange or buy various kinds of fresh produces, animals and trifles. On our way to Xinjiezhen (old town) (新街镇) to catch the bus to Kunming, our driver brought us to Shengcun to attend their market day. There’s this festive atmosphere around as the minority women wore their traditional clothing to the market making the place very colourful. The locals were doing their buying and selling, animals like the pigs and chicken were in the cage or tie at the trees while the humans auction them off. Do drop by their market day if you got the opportunity.
Getting to Yuanyang & Our Ordeal
The best way to go to Yuanyang is via Kunming South bus station where there is a direct bus to Xinjiezhen. Else you may take a bus to Gejiu (个旧) from Kunming East bus station and from Gejiu transfer to another bus to Xinjiezhen. The road condition is good and is a more comfortable journey.
Our journey to Yuanyang started from Jianshui. We missed the direct bus from Jianshui to Xinjiezhen, so we had to take the bus to Nansha (南沙) aka Yuanyang new town first, change to another bus to Xinjiezhen and take a minibus or taxi to our accommodation which is near to the Duoyishu scenic spot.
If you can, please avoid this route. It was quite a terrible 3 hours journey. A mountainous route from Jianshui to Nansha. Not recommended for people who have motion sickness. It was a mini bus thus making the journey worst. It was hot and stuffy made worse by people smoking on the bus. I wish to get out of the bus fast.
When we reached Nansha, we wanted to find a bus that can take us to Xinjiezhen. We saw a bus that state the destination — Duoyishu. So we asked if this bus goes directly there if so we need not go to Xinjiezhen and change to another minibus. The bus conductor informed that it was a tour bus. It will take you to Laohuzui (老虎嘴) to see the sunset and return to Duoyishu thereafter. We were not interested to take this but the bus conductor kept urging us to take this bus. When we hopped onto another bus which was supposed to go to Xinjiezhen, the bus conductor called us to go to another bus and said that the bus will stop at Xinjiezhen before going to Laohuzui. Well, we had no choice but had to change bus since the bus we were on was still empty after sitting there for quite awhile, I believe there were conspiracies behind to get everyone onto that tour bus. The bus departed from Nansha bus station and stopped whenever whoever requested to take a photo of a particular view, flowers, etc. As the bus traveled, our phone GPS showed that Xinjiezhen was getting further away and was on its way to some other places. Kenn immediately went to check with the bus driver. Alas, we were conned by the bus conductor! The bus driver did not know that we were supposed to go Xinjiezhen.
They made a stop at the visitor centre, and asked all to alight to buy the entrance pass (100 yuan). We did not want to buy the pass now, so the driver told us to wait at the visitor centre first, he will try to call a taxi for us. When all the other tourists went up the bus, he decided to call us up the bus again. The bus came to a stop at Qingkou (箐口) scenic spot. The tourists alighted and had their first view of the terraced landscape. The driver again assured us that he will try to get a taxi for us.
Finally, he managed to flag down a mini van. The van was from Xinjiezhen ferrying passenger to the various area in Yuanyang. Well, there were already like 6 people in the van, the 2 of us have to squeeze ourselves in, I am so glad I had brought a small backpack for this trip.
Turn out that the driver knew the boss of Cliffhouse and she kindly called Greg to come fetch us. Finally… the ordeal is over. What a day.. by the time we reach Cliffhouse, it was almost 6 pm. What a day…
Jianshui (建水) is an ancient town in the Honghe Prefecture of Yunnan province. An old town where cobblestone streets are lined with mansions built during the Ming and Qing dynasty. It is, however, occupied with many new and fashionable stores that you thought you are in a big shopping mall. Some scenic spots in Jianshui old town include the Zhu Family Gardens, Jianshui Confucius Temple, Chaoyang Tower, etc. You may also venture further out of the old town to the swallow cave or Zhang Family Garden. Jianshui is easily reached from Kunming South Bus Station with buses every 20 – 30 minutes. The journey is about 3 – 4 hours.
Jianshui was meant to be a stopover place for our journey from Luoping (罗平) to Yuanyang (元阳). There’s no direct bus from Luoping to Jianshui. The only way is to do a transfer at Kaiyuan (开远). Once we reached Luoping bus station, we went to buy the earliest timing bus ticket to Kaiyuan. There are not many buses a day to Kaiyuan, probably about 3 – 4 times a day. From Kaiyuan, take the mini bus to Jianshui new town and from there take a cab or their “Tuk-tuk” into the old town. The whole journey took us about 7 hours.
It was almost 3 pm when we check-in to our hostel. Decided to visit the Confucius Temple since it is just a 1-minute walk from our hostel. The Confucius Temple in Jianshui was originally constructed in 1285 with over 40 times of renovation and extension, thus making it one of the most well-preserved temples in China. It is free for locals thus you see many elders sitting around the gardens, the ponds chatting and playing chess. The temple is also frequent by students, especially during the exam period. The entrance fee for tourist is 60 yuan.
There are many water wells in Jianshui and they are still well-utilised by the locals for their daily needs. The biggest one is at the West gate out of the old town opposite the Chaoyang Tower (朝阳楼). After you crossed the road from Chaoyang Tower, walk further down on your left and find the signage for the tofu factory. The West well is just beside the tofu factory.
Visit the tofu making shop — 曾记板井豆腐坊 to savour on freshly made soy food and witness the tofu making process! At 5 yuan per person, you can drink all the soy milk and eat all the soy beancurd and soy fritters you can.
Yummy soy fritters!
Tofu is Jianshui’s specialty and has been featured in the famous foodie show — “舌尖上的中国” (A Bite of China). The local way of eating it is barbecued (临安烧豆腐). Dip it in soy sauce, pepper powder, crushed garlic, etc for added flavour. Sit around the fire and wait for the tofu to be barbecued till crispy. Actually, I don’t quite like the taste of the tofu here, I much prefer the ones at Yuanyang (元阳) thou.
The locals really love barbecue! There’s one whole street lined with barbecue stalls. Other than the usual barbecue stuff, I saw various kind of insects and some unknown stuff on display.
Following the recommendation on Lonely Planet, we found this no-name BBQ stall (seems to be just operating outside their house). At 6 pm, the main BBQ area was already crowded, we settled ourselves at the corner. After finding out how to order, we took the tray and picked the items we want and passed it to the BBQ auntie. The food was really yummy but they like to sprinkle chili powder onto the food, very flavourful but a bit too spicy for me.
Jianshui has not been high on my places to visit but this BBQ food stall ended my short visit in Jianshui on a good note and make for some good memories.
It’s raining yellow flowers everywhere in Luoping, China! Every year in February and March, the rapeseed flowers in Luoping are in full bloom. Luoping County is home to the largest plantations of rapeseed flowers in Southwest China. The golden rape stretches for as far as the eyes can see and together with the karst landscape among the mountain ranges, it is no wonder it attracted many photography enthusiasts there. Yes, never have I seen so many people with the longest or biggest lens they can find, the most expensive camera, the most high-end tripod all decked out at any possible places they can to get a good angle of the scenery.
Luoping is easily accessible from Kunming. There are 4 daily train services from Kunming railway station to Luoping railway station and the train fare is about CNY 16-38 per person per way dependant on the class of seats you buy. The journey took between 3+hrs to 6+hrs depending whether it is a high-speed train or slow train.
As our flight only reach Kunming airport at around 12 noon, we decided to take the bus instead. The bus departs every 40 minutes from Kunming East Bus Terminal and it takes about 4.5 hours to reach Luoping. The fare is about CNY 72. It’s a more luxury tourist bus so the whole journey was quite comfortable.
We reached Luoping bus station at around 4+ in the afternoon. When the bus reached Quqing city, we saw the rapeseed flowers, almost anywhere which allows them to grow. Luoping town, however, is a yawn. Nothing interesting and there’s construction everywhere. I was quite surprised to see many high-rise buildings. The overall impression I had of the town is that it’s grey, no greenery and rundown despite the many high rise buildings around. We could not find any hostel in the town and interesting boutique hotels were either too expensive (prices usually tripled during this period), sold out (do book early, the influx of visitors can be quite terrible during this period) or very far out from town (better for self-drive). So we settled with a normal tourist hotel.
Jin Ji Ling aka Golden Rooster Hill (金鸡岭)
The place to see the sun rises from the mountain range and the golden light shines on the sea of rapeseed flowers till it sparkles and blinds your eyes. Go early, real early else you will be like us to be really put off by the so call photography enthusiasts. The scene reminded me of the time when we went up Mt Bromo where it was equally crowded, just to see the sunrise. Something different here was other than fighting with the photographers for a good place to take a decent, unblock photo, you will be fighting with their big and heavy tripod, the big camera with a humongous telephoto lens as well.
We were also not quite sure if we went to the “official” area or not, as the scenery from where we saw seem different from what we saw in the guidebook. Our driver also seem not sure where to go and this random lady just open the car door sit inside and direct our driver to this place to park the car and lead us to an entrance to a rundown temple (have to pay CNY 20 per person), walked up several steep stairs to reach a platform with many paparazzi. You can climb further up for a better view of sunrise. Seeing that her job is done, she requested like CNY 30 from us. *Duh*
Jiulong Waterfall aka Nine Dragons Waterfall (九龙瀑布)
Listed as one of China’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls, Jiulong Waterfall scenic area is about an hour drive from Luoping town. Entrance fee is CNY 95. Due to the terrain and the effects of many years of erosion, ten waterfalls of various sizes have formed at nine different levels. The biggest waterfall is about 56 meters high and 112 meters wide. Do hike up to a platform near the peak to get a bird eye view of the waterfalls and the surrounding mountain scenery.
Luo Si Tian (螺丝田)
This is another popular area to see the rapeseed flowers. Carved out of a shallow valley of gentle slopes, follow the road on the opposite slope and view from a higher viewpoint. You will see that the flowers are grown in circular ring which follows the contours of the slopes and the fields look like the rings of a snail’s shell, thus the name I guess. I much prefer the view here than that of Jing Ji Ling.
It can be view anywhere along the road path. Just don’t go to those elevated make-shift type viewing platform, you will need to pay CNY 5 just to walk up the platform and the view is not necessarily good. Walking into the rapeseed flower fields also requires you to pay $$.
The rapeseed flower season is really the time to visit Luoping. The landscape and the scenery is a feast for the eyes.
After a day of glacier hiking at Skatafell with the hail, the rain, the snow… we finally check-in to our hotel — Fossfotel. At the reception, we saw a log sheet for us to state our interest if we want to be notified if there were any aurora activities. Of course! So we wrote down all our room number on it.
We all headed to our room for our shower and agreed to gather later at the lobby area for a drink. I am the last to bath in our room of 3. As I was wiping down the water on my body and getting to dress in my pajamas, I heard Yin shouting to me to get out fast. Northern lights!! Arrgh… why at this time??? Wearing my clothes in a rush, wear the socks, put on my beanie and jacket, we rush out to the dark. Where?? We were all asking. “Look up to the sky!” We saw the faint green colour slowly light up the dark sky.. Wow…
Our 1st northern light sighting at Fossfotel
After few rounds of hoo.. ahh… We went back to the hotel and started our nightly routine of drinks and snacks. Not too long later, we saw the reception guy running to each room and shouted “Northern lights! Northern lights!” What? Again? We scrambled back to our rooms to get our jacket and camera, leaving behind our drinks and snacks at the lobby.
This time, the northern lights were way better than the 1st round. I saw purple, pink, yellow, white and green! Oh no! and it was dancing!!
2nd sighting of the night. (Using handphone)
@Icelandair Hotel Herad, Egilsstaðir
On our road trip day 4, we reached the eastern part of Iceland. It was a long drive from Skaftafell, and it was so cold and windy that we just wanted to hide in the hotel room. On this night, we were treated to an amazing light show right at the comfort of our hotel room.
(Video credit: Kenneth Boey)
@Dimmuborgir Guesthouse, Lake Myvatn
This must be the best place to see northern lights! The lodges were situated by the lake. When the sun set for the day, it was total darkness. After our sumptuous home-cooked dinner, we noticed the faint green glowing outside. It’s time to go out for some light show! Gosh… when we stepped out of the lodge, the wind blew ruthlessly at us. Cold~~~
When we walked toward the lake, it got worst. No, we had to endure it, the lights were so amazing. Oh, we need to take picture of it… and of course, take a picture with it!
This must be a night of high activities for the northern lights. Throughout the night we saw the green light lit in the sky. In the middle of the night when I got up for the toilet, I saw it through the windows too. If only if it was not so cold, I would just laze on a lounge chair outside and feast my eyes the whole night 🙂
Northern lights at the lake (Photo credit: Kenneth Boey)
In northern Iceland, Akureyri their 2nd largest city. Expecting snow, extreme cold and more light show at night! Haa, we just cannot get enough of it!
After dinner, I peeked out of the window trying to see if there’s any greenish happening. the bright-lited street lights were blinding me. I saw.. I saw this faint green light out there. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? I went downstairs and open the door to see.. oh no!! It’s there, really! The girls were all dressed up and all ready to go out to see. Sensing our excitement, Kenneth decided to take the car and we drove out to the other side of the mountain to catch yet another amazing light show.
What to do in Tasmania? A nature wonderland with its many national parks and reserves, what’s more to enjoy and experience the natural beauty in Tasmania? Take your time and explore with your own two feet. National parks, reserves and conservation, some just within few minutes drive from the city. For nature or trekking lovers like me, we are spoit for choices when in Tasmania. What treks to do? The treks ranged from the easy to the difficult, day treks to multiple days overland track. Oh no.. how to choose?
So wanted to do the famed overland track but it can take us 5-6 days. For our short 1 week stay in Tasmania, we settled for the following short treks instead.
Dove Lake circuit and Marion lookout
Located in Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. The Dove Lake circuit trek is a 6 km track (about 3 hours walk) which is board-walked most of the way beneath the towering Cradle Mountain. This is also one of the most popular walk for visitors here. One of the highlights from this trek got to be the stunning Ballroom Forest. It was really like entering into another world, like an enchanted forest! The husband also spotted a wombat while doing the trek, but it vanished very quickly into the woods as we tried to have a better look of it!
Before we walked the circuit, we decided to side-track to the Marion Lookout first. Graded medium to hard, the trek involves some very very steep sections. Some parts required you to be on all four to climb up, the walk down is therefore not easy too! However it is totally worth it when you reach the top. Magnificent view of Cradle Mountain and the lakes. The trek will take about 3 hours.
Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Circuit
This is a 11 km circuit trek located in Freycinet National Park. From the main car park, we trekked up to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. Fantastic views of Mount Freycinet and Wineglass Bay. To get to the Wineglass Bay beach, you can only head downhill towards Wineglass which the trail is defined by many steep sections. So steep is the trail that I told the husband I rather walk the longer Hazard Beach circuit to go back to the car than to climb this back up to the car park!
Wineglass Bay beach is awesome. Crystal clear blue sea, clean white sandy beach. Oh no, but the water was oh so cold~~~. Many people still braved the cold and jumped into the sea. How I wish I had my swimming gear with me! Well, we still rolled up our pants and ran into the water letting the cold water refreshed our tired legs. Shioks!
After much fun at the beach, we continued on towards Hazards Beach. The trail took us across the national park along the isthmus via a flat track. About 45 minutes later, we reached Hazards Beach. We had wanted to enjoyed our packed sandwiches on this beach, but alas.. nothing like the Wineglass beach. The beach here was filled with seaweeds washed ashore and many many flies… Haiz.
Well, it’s past noon, we decided to do a quick lunch and continued on. The trail here, along the beautiful coastline of the Great Oyster Bay, climbs gently uphill towards the car park (about 6 km). Certain areas are exposed so remember your sunblock and hat.
Mount Field National Park
Mount Field National Park is Tasmania first national park and is located just over 1 hr drive from Hobart. A diversity of landscapes and plants, from tall forests and waterfalls at the lower sections to the glaciated mountains, lakes of the highlands.
Did short walks to the Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Tall Trees Circuit. These are all easy walk which can be done within 30-45mins each.
A natural wonder only 15 minutes walk from the city centre of Launceston. There’s a free out swimming pool which opens from November to March, the world’s longest single-span chairlift and 2 walking tracks that straddle the gorge.
Visiting national parks in Tasmania requires you to purchase park entry fees. Money raised from the park entry fees goes towards the upkeep of the parks and reserves. As we visited quite a few national parks, we decided to purchase the 8 weeks vehicle pass for A$60/- (Note: Pass per vehicle per day cost A$24/-). Once purchased, remember to place the pass face up on the dashboard of the vehicle, we blur blur just keep it with us and received a summon ticket 😛
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, 30 minutes drive from Hobart CBD, operates with a focus on projects to conserve, rescue, rehabilitate and re-release injured wildlife. Their work include wildlife rescue program, education outreach, breeding programs, conservation projects and research which run solely on visitor admission fees and donations.
Entrance fee at A$26 comes with a complimentary bag of kangaroo food, yup… the roos roam freely within the Sanctuary, the guy at the ticket booth warned us “they know you have food :)”. Not really enjoying them licking and eating the food from my hand, it just got all wet and the food residues just got stuck to my hand. One even aggressively grab on to my hand and ate real greedily!
There’s daily guided tours for free where they will share the stories of survival of the animals in the sanctuary. We managed to join the full guided tour which started at 2 pm that day.
Tina the wombat
Meet Tina the 2 years old wombat which is such a darling. Her story however made me teared. Tina was rescued and brought to the sanctuary when her mother was hit by a car. Unfortunately, her mother was hit twice and the 2nd time hit little Tina who was then in her mother’s pouch. She was seriously injured and due to her head injury, Tina’s healing process has been slow, however the guide was confident she will progress and be released to wildlife soon! Gambatte Tina!
Interesting facts about wombats
Looks are so deceiving. They look cute, round with short legs but wombats are strong and fast! They have a very hard cartilage plate on their rump providing protection from predators and it can be used to crush attackers against the roof of the burrow!
Wombats have square poo! These cubes of poo are placed on elevated objects to mark territory, so that’s also why the shape is square, so that it will not roll away!
There’s no koala in Tasmania!
The 3 koalas in Tasmania are for exhibits. When we were there, they are mostly asleep. Yes, they sleep almost all day and that’s because the food they eat are almost with zero energy content. The koalas are very fussy and only eat a few preferred species of gum leaves. So you see, there’s really not much perks for them to be active, as long as there’s available supply of fresh gum leaves and a comfortable tree branch to sit on, they can nap for as long as they want to…
The Tasmanian Devils
You are in Tasmania! Of course you got to meet them! However, after hearing about the facts of Tasmanian Devils, you really don’t think you want to be born as a Tasmania Devil, oops… The devil is a marsupial, they have a pouch too! The females can give birth to 20 – 30 but as there are only four nipples in the pouch, competition is fierce and few newborns survive. The young grow rapidly and are ejected from the pouch after around 100 days and they become independents at around nine months.
They live in dens and burrows but can’t really dig as good as the wombats. They are carnivorous marsupial but they don’t hunt well and they can’t really run fast. They feed more on roadkill thus making them vulnerable to becoming a roadkill themselves!
There are many other residents at the sanctuary. Eastern and spotted-tail quolls, tawny frogmouths, potoroos, bettongs, snakes and many more, some are now extinct everywhere else. Most of the animals in their care are orphans being raised for release, or injured adults unable to survive in the wild and Bonorong is a place of refuge for these fragile animals.