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…….The World Without Boundaries

Atop Kerinci – Again

Written By: jipp - Feb• 09•20

So I climbed Mount Kerinci in Sumatra a couple of months ago. It would be my second time conquering this highest active volcano in South East Asia. I was quite worried, not only because of the severe lack of preparatory training, it would also be my first mountain climb since I hit 40 last year. Due to the busy nature of my job lately, I had to rely on the little training that I did after work, climbing the stairs of my office building – 28 floors of them altogether – and yet I felt so under-prepared.

But then I surprised myself when I conquered the mountain in flying colours. In fact, I ran the last 200 feet of the climb all the way to the peak (I’d never want to do it again, I almost passed out by the time I reached the peak). But I did it.

Looking down at Danau Gunung Tujuh – the highest lake in South East Asia

Despite the heavy rain and all the deafening thunderbolts that woke me up several times the night before, the mountain gods again surprised me, probably for the umpteenth time (Mount Rinjani was the worst!), and showed me how unpredictable the weather is up on mountains, either for the better or worse, and that it should always been seen as such.

This one was definitely for the better. We found ourselves standing on top of Mount Kerinci with all the beautiful views of Jambi province and probably beyond. We could even see the beautiful Danau Gunung Tujuh, a lake surrounded by 7 peaks hence the name, as if to tell us that we should come to her before we returned to Malaysia (and we did).

The most amazing thing about being on top of Mount Kerinci that day was the fact that we had the mountain peak all to ourselves. I mean, with so many hikers and adventure seekers and mountain enthusiasts in just about every corner of the world nowadays, it’s hard to imagine being on top of a mountain – let alone a mountain with quite a bit of reputation like Mount Kerinci – with no one else around you but you, your team, your guide and probably one of your porters.

It did rain very heavily when were on the way down, in fact the trail had turned into a muddy stream of water, but it no longer mattered. We had fun.

My Mary Poppins moment

I’ve got no mountain climbs planned out for this year yet – but I am looking at the long-overdue Semeru, and probably the highest mountain in the Philippines, whatever the name is, and some other mountains within the locality. EBC is still very much in the bucketlist but I don’t see I can do it this year, or even next year. Another mountain in the North of India seems more appealing to me now. We’ll see though.

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A Weekend Revisit to Patong

Written By: jipp - Feb• 02•20

So I have just remembered. I went to Phuket late last year – to join a bunch of friends from my hometown who actually toured from Bangkok to Phuket and back on bicycles. It would be my second time to this island, after going there with a friend back in 2009 (one of my very first travel trips). As expected, everything had changed a lot. It was only a moderately sized airport back then, but now it seems to have doubled up in size and the number of passengers that it has to deal with.

I remember having to deal with the incessant hassling by hordes of taxi drivers, but this time you can just go to any of the ticket counters and buy your ticket. There were more easy and cheaper options. Cheaper does come with a price though, only in another form. I had to wait until the van was fully loaded, and then it stopped at some shop where we were all asked to disembark and go into a shop promoting all kind of tour packages that I had no interest whatsoever in. I just wanted to reach Patong where my hometown friends were eagerly waiting.

After tossing my luggage in the hotel room, I went to join them at Bangla Road, the road that fascinated me so much when I first visited it 10 years ago. I was glad that they were not really in the midst of the cacophony of deafening sounds and noises that Bangla Road is known for (apart from more other things of course), because I was not really prepared for it just yet. Instead, I found them in a quite part of the area where we could have beer and talk without having to shout at the top of our lungs.

The real tour around Patong only happened the next day. Patong was almost unrecognizable from the last time I remember it was. New buildings were up – large and modern – and the small bars that lined up the beach back then were no longer there. Instead, they had now been replaced with modern shops that sell souvenirs and restaurants that sell food at exorbitant prices.

I remember thinking how expensive things were in Patong back then. Now it has turned for the worse. Apart from the beer, everything in Patong is expensive. The prices seem to cater for the rich(er) tourists and not really for the budget travelers like me. Thanks God there are tons of other places in Thailand – and more and more new places are springing up – that you can still travel to without having to break the wallet.

The beach is still one of my favorite things in Patong. It may not be the most beautiful beach, but there is something so relaxing and exciting about just being there. It is still as crowded as ever – which means you’ll never run out of things to see and observe and laugh at. LOL.

The nightlife at Bangla Road still fascinated me. I remember going there alone last time because my travel buddy had preferred not to come with me, or ‘the images would stay in my head for years’ as he described it. I was 10 years younger, and of course very eager to explore.

I went to see all the shows, and I had no second thought about going deep into the ‘back alleys’ to see what Bangla Road really had to offer (for my eyes). And my friend was right, the images did stay in my head for years, in fact they are still in my head up to this day. I mean, I haven’t gone senile and definitely haven’t lost my memory yet so… they are definitely still in there. LOL.

But I wasn’t there for those shows this time. Instead, we went to one of the night clubs with live band performances. It was super-crowded, and was quite uncomfortable to be in with all the rubbing and giving ways (to incoming and outgoing club-goers) but whatever feel of discomfort gradually went away as the night wore on and we had more and more beer down our thirsty throats.

It was a super-energetic night and I don’t remember having jumped and danced to a course music and live band performances so continually for a very long time. I thought my days of energetic clubbing were over but my night – that last night in Patong had proved otherwise. LOL.

For me Patong really is a place that you’d go to for the nightlife – and probably a little bit for the beach, a very crowded one – and nothing more. In fact, people come to Patong as a transit point to other islands in the Andaman sea which is dotted with world-famous islands, as an alternative to going there via Krabi.

But I don’t mind going there again – for the nightlife of course. With all the busy-ness of my (professional) life that I was dragged into right now, a night or two in Patong suddenly sounds quite relevant to me. Heh.

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