Beach

Olympic National Park, USA: Camping at Lake Crescent, 17 – 18 July 2015

Some kind friends invited me on an overnight camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula, a UNESCO world heritage site because of its biodiversity. We left Seattle at around 7 am, and hopped on the 8.50 am ferry from Edmonds, for the 2 hr drive from Kingston to Lake Crescent, arriving at Fairholme Campground close to noon. Camp sites (88 total) are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Although the sign outside indicated that it was full, be sure to drive in and check, as it was not updated, as was our experience. When we drove in, we found some availability. You can check out the different camps and their facilities in the link above (Fairholme Campground).

How securing a campsite works at Fairholme Campground:

There are three ‘loops’ of campsites, and located near the wash facilities is a board where you can check for availability of campsites, and how long campsites are reserved for. A blank space indicates an available campsite. The board is not completely authoritative, so the best thing you can do is to walk/drive around, and see if a campsite is indeed reserved. After you choose a campsite, fill out a little slip, and pay the fee ($20 per night).

Campsites differed greatly in size. The larger ones were snapped up pretty early, and because there were four of us and two tents, we also needed a largish campsite. After driving/walking around for a bit, we found a sufficiently large campsite on Loop C. I highly recommend Loop C. Loop C is the furthest away from highway 101, and some of the campsites are actually beside Lake Crescent itself. The only downside to Loop C is that it is a walk-in site, so you cannot drive/park your car right beside your tent. As long as you do not have too much stuff or have enough muscle, that should not be a great challenge. The views from the campsites on Loop C are priceless, and really worth the extra walk/work.

The ones by the river are numbered 81-88, I think.

Lake CrescentAfter eating a sandwich lunch at our campsite table, we headed to Hurricane Ridge, which is some 1.5 hrs drive from Lake Crescent. Hurricane Ridge offers gorgeous mountain views, and sound views from the lookout, which is a short walk from the visitor’s center. There is also some wildlife to be spotted – we spotted a deer. After our short walk in the short loops at Hurricane Ridge (we had a lil two year old trekker), we drove back to the campground for a dinner by the fire pit. I tried to wake up before sunrise for a blue hour shot of Lake Crescent, but well, I slept through it. Oh well. Nevertheless, it was amazing to wake up to bird song, and a picture-perfect turquoise lake. Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane RidgeLake Crescent

Lake Crescent

After breakfast at the campgrounds, we decided to head down the Peninsula to check out some of those glorious beaches. We passed by the town of Forks, which is now famous for its association with Twilight and had brunch at a diner.

One of the more unique things about the Pacific Northwest Beaches are their driftwood and black sand. I have been to Kalaloch a number of times, but every time I do go there again, I get reminded of how beautiful it really is. We stopped for a bit, and let the little tyke have some fun digging in the sand. The sand has an awesome texture – fine grain. For some reason or other, there were lots of dead jellyfish and crabs, which washed ashore as well. As we neared late afternoon, we started our drive back, passing through the town of Aberdeen, which is the birth place of Kurt Cobain. I’ve never done it, but apparently you can do some sort of Kurt Cobain tour if you are in Aberdeen. We mostly stopped for food, because the little tyke wanted to be fed.

All-in-all, a nice little weekender! Kalaloch

Costs:

Edmonds to Kingston Ferry: $29.65 ($13.65 for vehicle & driver + $8 per adult passenger. Tip: I usually drive this route in reserve, because you do not have to pay passenger fares from Kingston to Edmonds – You just have to pay the vehicle fare, saving $8 per passenger)

Camping: $20

Gas: ~$30 (335 miles. cost depends on your gas mileage, but at 30mpg and $3 per gallon, works out to this sum)

Parks pass: $20 (though not all areas require a pass)

Views/experience: priceless

Total: ~ $100 

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Categories: Beach, Camping, Nature, Travel Tip, UNESCO, USA | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Australia – St. Kilda, 18 November 2012

After a heavy breakfast at the hotel, I decided to go check out St. Kilda. I got on the free tram, and ended up on Swanston Street again. I then took tram 3A ($4 for a two-hour window). The trip took about 20 min, and went past some nice spots like Royal Botanic Gardens, and Fitzroy street shopping.

St. Kilda beach is pretty nice. It’s clean, and has a nice boardwalk for those who want a stroll. It wasn’t particularly crowded when I was there, though I didn’t go take a dip in the water for a temperature check. As it’s Sunday, they also have a Sunday market. Not too shabby for a short trip from central Melbourne.

After my brief stroll on the beach, I decided to check out Luna Park, one of the few left in the world built from about 100 years ago. This particular one was built in 1912, and it has the oldest, running wooden roller-coaster in the world, called the Great Scenic Railway Roller Coaster. Entrance into the park is free, but you have to pay for the rides. You can either get the unlimited ticket pass ($45-49) or pay $10 per ride. It is pretty cool visually. It rides on the perimeter of the park, including on top of the big mouth entrance. There’s also a guy standing on the roller coaster, operating it.

After trying out some of the arcade games, I decided to explore the St. Kilda area for some grub. Many of the places are really expensive. The area is nice, though. There are several cute shopfronts for the food places. After exploring a little, I decided to have a place called Grill’d, which sells burgers. I was pretty full, so I went for a Mini Moo ($9), with chips ($3) and a St. Kilda’s beer (4.5% alcohol, $7.50). The patty was nice, but the bun to patty ratio was a bit off – too much bun, though the bun was definitely good.

After my filling lunch, I decided to go back to Melbourne via another tram – 96. Thankfully, I managed to do all this within the 2 hr window, so I saved some money there!

St. Kilda Beach

St. Kilda Beach

Entrance to Luna Park, St. Kilda

Entrance to Luna Park

Great Scenic Railroad at Luna Park, St. Kilda

Scenic Railway Roller Coast

Rides at Luna Park, St. Kilda

Other rides at Luna Park

Saint Kilda Brew, 4.5% alcohol, St. Kilda

St. Kilda’s Beer

Little Moo burger at Grill'd, St. Kilda

Mini Moo at Grill’d

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Indonesia – Surf’s Up in Bali, 23-26 September 2012

Couple of friends and I managed to put together a short weekday trip to Bali. Only mission of trip? Ride some waves.

Apart from full service airlines (KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, but to name a few) that fly from Singapore and Bali, there are also multiple budget options that head there, including Jetstar , Tiger Airways , and Airasia. Air Asia gave us the best combination of price and schedule, so we ended up taking that option. I think Lion Air flies there too, but I’m not that keen on that. To keep costs low, we stayed at Tune Hotel, which is run by the same company that operates Air Asia. It’s a no frills hotel that’s mostly clean, has a great shower, and a nice bed. We booked into the one at Kuta, and it was located at a central location, giving easy access to Kuta Beach.

Upon arrival, our first mission was to get some lunch. Previously, we ate at Warung Made on Jalan Pantai Kuta (it’s about 500 ft away from the beach) and were satisfied with the fare, so we returned. They offer cheapish and excellent Indonesia food. Our first meal was a nasi goreng (fried rice) and gado-gado (Indonesian salad with boiled veggies, tofu, and peanut sauce), which we washed down with some draft Bintang. Whole meal costs us around 50000 rupiah (~ 5 usd).

As we were still early for check-in at Tune, we ended up going for a foot massage. Recently, multiple massage places have popped up around Jalan Pantai Kuta, and their rates are vaguely the same. They cost around 5 usd for a foot massage, and 7-8 usd for a body massage, both lasting 1 hr each. Frankly I don’t know much about massages, but they all seemed pretty good.

Surfing. Well, there are actually a couple of options available in Bali, including more advanced options. But as we are beginners, we decided that a beginner’s beach break is the best option for us. Kuta is an excellent option, if you are looking for a beginner’s beach break. Equipment rental is cheap (from 4 usd a day to 4 usd for half a day, depends on your bargaining skills, and your willingness to carry a surfboard for some distance), and if you so wish, you can also hire one of the beach boys as an instructor.

Some things to note – if you are not a strong swimmer, I highly recommend that you do not do this. While the waters are shallow, the under currents are very strong. It requires a certain level of water confidence to battle the waves. Also, for a more painless surfing experience, the area that’s closest to the entrance to Kuta beach at Jalan Pantai Kuta is your best option. The further north you head, the crazier the waves get. It can be fun, but it is also exhausting. Do also watch out for surfboards headed your way. As there are many beginners out there, you never quite know if someone rams a surfboard in your direction. So heads up .

In a strange little twist, our surfing trip turned into a shopping trip, due to the intensity of the surfing. One of my friends has lovingly christened our soft boards the cheese grater. We lost quite a lot of skin after the first day, prompting us to invest in rash vests, and non-chaffing board shorts. So do try to bring some equipment, as this can be quite painful. Or if you do decide to buy, there’s a shop at the south end of the bar scene on Jalan Legian that sells surfing (and other beach) stuff for a discount.

We ended our days with cold Bintangs and beautiful sunsets by the beach.

Categories: Activities, Beach, Indonesia, Sports | Tags: , | Leave a comment

USA – Westport (WA), 07 June 2012

After two years of reading myself blind, I passed my PhD general exams, as of 30 May. What does this mean? I’m moving back to Asia semi-permanently. The last two years in Seattle have been magical, and I am really sorry to leave. If I could choose, and had no responsibilities, I’d have stayed, because I fell for this city. Anyway, couldn’t leave this state without going surfing the Pacific, so off I went with a partner-in-crime!

Choice? Westport. After some research about surfing in Washington State, I found a beginner’s beach break in Westport. Westport is a coastal town along the Pacific, that’s about 2.5 hrs drive from Seattle. Whether the weather cooperates, mission on!

I *erm* woke up late after pulling a late-nighter for my paper, so had a late start at 11 am. Picked up S, and then, we started the drive to Westport. Truth be told, Seattle weather wasn’t that kind. Rain, rain, low visibility. But nothing shall derail this mission. Onward!

Strangely, despite all the crazy rain, I think the heavens must have felt some pity for the heavy heart I have, for leaving this magical place. When we drove into Westport, it was actually clear, and blue. 1 pm, lunch time. I did some homework on Tripadvisor and we ended up at Bennett’s Fish Shack. It was decently fresh seafood, a simple place, whereby the entrees hovered around $10. Portions were definitely big. I had fried oysters, S had fish and chips, and a clam chowder. That chowder was almost solid in texture!

On our way to the Marina (Westhaven Drive), I spotted Steep Water Surf Shop, so after lunch, we turned back, and got our rentals there. The guy, Matt, is friendly, and helpful with information (e.g. daily state park pass that you needed to get, showers), and gave us a 1 min quickie lesson. His equipment was also in good condition, and it’s on the way to West Haven State Park. Random note – maybe I’m not clued into this, but bring your own shower amenities and towels. They have hot water shower, requires 2 quarters for maybe about 5 mins of hot water.

After getting everything, and loading up the car, we drove to West Haven State Park. Just cut through the bushes, and you’ll hit the beach. It’s a fairly typical Pacific Northwest beach … Driftwood, black sand. It was a beach break as promised, and had right and left breaks. Weather wasn’t exactly kind, but soldier on, we did. S was a total trooper in this mission. I did not manage to stand on the board, but for the first time, I learnt how to position to board to catch the wave. So, I will no longer require the services of surfer boys. Waves were breaking too fast for us to catch them.

All in all, it was an amazing day. I finally got to surf the great Pacific. Next stop – world domination!

Bennett’s Fish Shack and Westhaven Drive

Gorgeous Westport

Loaded up car with surfboards

Categories: Activities, Beach, USA | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Hong Kong – Stanley, 01 September 2011

We had an afternoon flight, so we decided to venture a little. In my random, open a map and point fashion, we ended up in Stanley. To get to Stanley, take the MTR to Central, and at the Central Exchange bus station, take 6, 6A, 66, and 260 (I think). The Hong Kong tourism map is amazingly helpful for this purpose.

I think the highlight of this trip is the bus trip. The last time, I got to southern Hong Kong via the tram, so I saw mainly cityscapes. But this time, we went by southern Hong Kong. One would not think of Hong Kong as a beach destination, but guess what? They do have quite a number of beaches, for instance, at Repulse Bay. I spotted at least three beaches on the way to Stanley.

After arriving in Stanley, we didn’t really go into Stanley market. In any case, it was like about 10 am, and most of the people opening the stores were not early birds. There was, however, the spectacular Murray House which was built in the late 1800s, which still stands there. There is a restaurant there open for lunch, if you want some of the 19th century ambience. Otherwise, I think Stanley is kinda like a laid-back escape for Hongkongers who are looking to get away from the city. They do have a decent-looking hotel there as well.

Southern Hong Kong beach at Repulse Bay

Hong Kong is very island-y

Stanley Market

Murray House

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Vietnam – Con Dao, 22 August 2011

I must have an affinity for prison islands. Anyway, just to spice up my library research trip, (and since the price was right) I decided to take a trip to Con Dao, which used to be known as Pulou Condore, and was famous for being a prison island during the French colonial era.

Con Dao is about 45 mins away from Ho Chi Minh City. It appears that getting there now is easier than in the past. Now, Vietnam Airlines offers almost daily flights (and sometimes, more than once a day) to Con Dao at reasonable prices (~100 usd, a little cheaper if you can score a deal), and so does Air Mekong . Both can be done online. I made my booking via Vietnam Airlines, and had no problems with the online booking system.

After the short flight from HCMC to the Con Dao airport, the reports on wikitravel about the difficulty of transportation was true. Most of the other passengers on the plane were staying either at Con Dao resort, ATC, or Six Senses, which sent their vans to pick up their hotel guests. Since I was staying at Con Dao Camping, and did not bother arranging for transportation beforehand, I was ever so slightly screwed. Thankfully, there were several xe om (motorbike taxis) hanging around, so I hopped onto one, and paid 50000 dong for the journey into town, which was about 12 km away from the airport.

The journey from the airport to town was amazingly picturesque. The island of Con Dao is rather hilly, and after the cliff, there’s the gorgeous blue-green sea. The road was ran along the coast, so I could see the contrast between the lush greenery, and the sea that beats relentlessly against the rocky cliffs.

Anyway, no drama getting to Con Dao Camping. Despite the misleading name of Con Dao Camping, this place actually consists of well-constructed bungalows built in the shape of tents. The bungalows are modern, comfortable, and have every amenity you would need: A/C, ensuite bathroom with hot water shower, cable-tv, and fridge. Prices range from 30 USD for a bungalow with two single beds, to 35 USD for a bungalow with a King bed. Be sure to send them an email to make your reservations. These simple, but comfortable bungalows face the sea, and in the compound, there is a well-kept lawn, complete with deck chairs, and a private beach just after the lawn. It is more tranquil compared to the stretch where ATC and Con Dao resort is located (where locals go swimming, too), and it is definitely cheaper than ATC and Con Dao resort (which range from 50 USD to above 100 USD). They also provide motorcycle rentals at the standard rate in Con Dao, and range from 20000 dong for 1 hr on a manual motorbike, to 130000 dong for a full day on an automatic motorbike. My only complaint is that the service is kinda slow. Also, go look for food elsewhere – they don’t really have a kitchen.

My first stop for the day was the prison camp. After working up my expectations for it, it was actually rather anti-climatic. It kinda looked like the one in displayed in Ho Chi Minh City’s War Remnants Museum. Architecturally, it was not exactly inspiring, unlike its British counterpart, the Circular Jail in Port Blair in the Andamans. Oh well, at least I can say I’ve been there now?

Anyways, I still enjoyed this trip. It is definitely a nice getaway from Vietnam, which is always so busy and bustling. Pace of life was definitely slower here, and people seem more laid back, and less rip-off-y. There were many beaches around, and an excellent people-to-beach ratio (i.e. very few people compared to the number of beaches). I have heard that the snorkelling, diving, and trekking was wonderful, but I guess I will have to explore that in a separate trip. But otherwise, just moped-ing around simply made my day!

Con Dao Camping

On Top the French Tiger Cages

Con Dao Coastline, and an Island beyond

Markers and Mirrors

A mysterious little isle, and fishing boats

Categories: Architecture, Beach, Museums, Nature, Vietnam | Tags: | 2 Comments

Malaysia – Pulau Redang, 27-29 July 2011

Courtesy of the generous parents, we went on a cruise with Star Cruises to Pulau Redang. We got a balcony room near the front of the boat, which was totally sweet, and I did spend some of the (non-rainy) mornings sitting there, reading while gazing at the South China Sea. Well, the main stop for this trip was Pulau Redang. Having heard much about this beach on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, and not having been to the east coast, I was excited about this.

I have pretty mixed feeling about this place. We had only about 4 hours to explore Pulau Redang, and everyone was dropped off at the same place. The first sight of the beaches was definitely mesmerizing. It was a beautiful contrast of powdery white sand and blue-green clear waters. Just one downside – way too many people. Imagine about 500 people suddenly descending on a beach together with you.

As a little note to other people who might want to visit Pulau Redang. The fastest way to get there is by plane. You can get there by Firefly Airlines or Berjaya Air. If you are going there, you *might* not want to stay at Berjaya Redang Resort on some days. It looks absolutely fabulous, and looks like likes of fun as well, with a good beach in front. But perhaps once a week, a Star Cruise will unload its passengers onto the beach. I can’t imagine how it would be pleasant to suddenly have a deluge cruise ship passengers flood the your private beach.

This is where they filmed the Ritchie Ren and Sammi Cheng film – Summer More More Tea

Beautiful Beach of Pulau Redang

Seeing Singapore Harbour from the cruise ship

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USA – Honolulu HI, 30 Mar – 03 Apr 2011

I went to Honolulu for a conference. Well, the conference is an excuse. I just wanted to go somewhere warm and beachy, and since I presented a paper, some kind souls covered the cost of the air ticket. Well, since I was in Honolulu the whole time, there is no real need for me to write up an itinerary page. I didn’t do much, except go to Waikiki, sit in the sun, and do my readings.

There were certainly some highlights on the trip.

  • Meeting up: I met up with several people, like C and the two Ms. C is now studying in UH, and so he knows the area. He kindly came down to Waikiki to meet me, and he brought me to Zippy’s, the local version of Denny, and I tried a local specialty, loco moco at his suggestion. According to C, it was a dish invented for the US army. It is a very simple and hearty dish, and given my predisposition for hearty dishes, obviously, this got two thumbs up. It is basically a large hamburger patty on two scoops of rice, topped with a sunny side up, and drowned in gravy. I loved it!
Loco Moco
  • I also bumped into J and G at the conference, and they told me about a college baseball game at UH. Well, since the sun has to set at some point, and the baseball game is in the evening, I decided to head towards UH for the baseball game. I didn’t stay till the end of the game, but it was pretty fun! And it sure as hell was packed! Go, school spirit! 🙂 (UH won, btw)
UH versus Witchat state (something like that)
  • I went surfing as well. As usual, couldn’t get on the surfboard. Maybe I’ll have better luck in Peru or Bali. Waikiki beach is definitely super good for beginners’ surfing. There are lots of long waves (ok, I don’t know the exact term) that’d give beginners a chance to catch the wave and do the ‘pop’, but well, waayyyy too many beginners! I almost got killed when someone came straight for me. I only saved myself from serious damage by jumping off the board and hiding under the board!
Beach Bums, Surfers and Diamond Head Crater in the Backdrop of Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach
Thought this hotel was pretty cool looking; endless shopping in Waikiki
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USA – Santa Monica, CA, 25 March 2011

Last full day of the road trip in California. The two suggested Santa Monica, which I was happy to comply with. Apparently, they decided to go there because there’s a shopping strip, and a Coach shop. Singaporeans will be Singaporeans no matter where they go. Their national hobby follows them.

Anyway, I enjoyed Santa Monica. Previously, J told me that he describes Bali as the Indonesian version of Santa Monica. There was something gorgeous about the bright sunshine (after several months of grey in Seattle) and Ferris wheels that just make me smile. I had a great time just walking around, particularly exploring the arcade games, and the whole carnival atmosphere of the pier that made the little kid with me happy and excited! 🙂

One other thing that I enjoyed, were all the signs, and memorabilia of Route 66 along Santa Monica. There was just something grand, adventurous and romantic about the whole concept of driving all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica. It almost makes me want to jump on a moped, and follow the route of so many who have done this before me!

I got almost ten days worth of sunshine after about six months of grey, and got to watch Spring Training, so all in all it was a great trip. I didn’t think I could drive that much alone (~1500 miles), nor did I think I would be able to navigate the highways. But turns out that the US really was built for road trips! Am looking forward to the next grand road trip! 🙂

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USA – Manhattan Beach, CA, 23 March 2011

I dropped off the two at Disneyland since I have been there previously, and have no plans of spending extra money there, or playing gooseberry. It was a nice me-day. I drove to one of the many surf beaches in California – Manhattan Beach. Although I planned to go surfing initially, the cold water and the lack of surfboard rental facilities nearby made me change my mind. After feeling how cold it was, I simply chickened out. There were, however, two other guys with wet suits, who were out there and doing their thing. I do enjoy watching people surfing, even if I am not doing it myself.

The trip to Manhattan Beach wasn’t wasted for me either. I sat on the beach and basically did some of my reading amidst all the seagulls, volleyball players, and the few random children who decided to go run wild on the beach on this rather chilly day. After my one hour of sunshine, I drove to a cafe and hung out there it was time for me to pick the two up at Disneyland at 7 pm.

We went to the Korean supermart near where we were staying at Howard Johnson Inn at Torrance, and had some excellent and cheap sushi rolls (~$4), thus ending our day.

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