Category Archives: lifestyle

Flying to the mystery island

04.05.2017: They fly and explore various places around Malaysia with their engine powered wings during weekends, public holidays or special events. Being an adventurous spirit, I frequently join them for cross-country (XC) flying trip around Malaysia. Exploring and gliding through the airspace and seeing Malaysian’s landscape from a different perspective.

My alarm went off at 5 am that Sunday morning.

Earlier than usual as I needed to rush to the pre-planned take-off site of my next flying adventure. I had my quick shower, grabbed my camera bag and my flying equipment then drove for an hour to Antara Gapi, Serendah, Hulu Selangor.

Our take-off site was a public area. An open area up on top of a small hill in the middle of Antara Gapi’s town.

Heart of the eagle

A small group this morning, 6 paramotor pilots and me as a tandem passenger to one of them. They seemed to have something in common with me, an explorer spirit and I labelled them as my explorer PPG friends. They glided gracefully through the airspace exploring our Malaysian tropical landscape with their motors neatly tucked behind their back and their wings on top of their heads.

Riding on a paramotor tandem trike is different from riding pillion on a motorbike or on an aeroplane, as the passenger sits in front while the pilot sits at the back as he needs to control the glider and the throttle. So, passengers have a first class view of whatever in front of the trike.

We were heading to Sungai Tinggi Dam, Hulu Selangor, 33 km away from our take-off site. It would take approximately 45 minutes of flying hours to reach the place and another 45 minutes to fly back. As usual, I would be riding tandem with PPG pilot Tazza. I tagged along with them whenever they need a photographer to help capture their flying adventure.

Tazza would check on his pre-flight checklist while I would get into my seat; reorganized my cameras and my radio; set my prayers and wait for the clearance to takeoff.

A flock of bird

The clock was pointing at 7:30 am and morning lights started to rise from the horizon, pilots would take their turn to spread their wings, fire their motors and take-off safely from the ground. The air tends to be calmer early in the morning and as the light hiked up higher on the horizon, thermal heat could rock their gliders. So, they need to be fast because the air could be unpredictable.

Our adventure started when every pilot has successfully airborne, as they would glide out of Antara Gapi in one group. We were heading to Selangor river, approximately 6.3km northwest of Antara Gapi, and we would trail along the river.

We flew above small towns, some housing areas and lingered around hundreds of fishponds along the river bank. Hundreds or maybe thousands of birds loitered around the ponds probably looking for early breakfast and as the pilots glide through the area the birds ran berserk fearing the sound of their engines. It felt so good flying side by side with the birds, you could almost feel that you were part of the flock.

We were cruising along the Selangor river until we reached the North-South Highway and we then headed up to the North, flying parallel along the highway for about 10km. Once we reached near Bukit Tagar, we then crossed over the highway heading northwest to Sungai Tinggi Dam.

The view was way beyond words. I have travelled and witnessed countless beautiful landscape around the world but I have never expected to experience such rich and mesmerizing views from a place just 1-hour drive from my home.

Such peace and serenity filled the air and the landscape right beneath was such an amazing sight. I could see layers by layers of hills with a sign of thick mist in between the gaps.

Immersed in nature

Hulu Selangor area has a very diversified landscape. The area is relatively unspoiled, surrounded by mountains and secondary tropical forest. Flying with paramotor over the area is another option for the adventurous explorer who wishes to experience a variety of landscapes in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

When you are flying above at a certain height, your brain may get a bit lost on trying to figure out the right direction. It was a free highway up there hanging on the air,  as there were no physical road and signboard to guide the way. It is critical to be 100% sure on the direction as ppg pilots could not refuel gas while they were on air.  Getting lost was not an option.

So, it is crucial for them to depend heavily on GPS, altimeter and whatever mobile app that could track their flying routes and location.

The mystery island

As the pilots glided forward, I noticed a change in the atmosphere around me, the air felt much colder and windier. And, as I turned my head to my right I saw the mesmerising view of Sungai Tinggi dam. Dramatically, at that time the morning light was super golden.

The place felt mysterious. I understand now why the pilots called this place the “Mystery Island”. I had the urged to scream, not that hysterical scream but a delightful scream.

“What is this place? What is all this?” I screamed through the radio and my pilot friends were screaming and cheering at the same time too. What a beautiful moment. Honestly, the view from high above has yet to disappoint me, amazing experience.

Each cross-country flight that I tagged along was always a unique experience and it never felt the same to me. I blamed it on the character of the air, the moment of the light and the altitude of our location. We spent another five minutes hovering around the dam before the leader decided that it was time to turn back to Antara Gapi.

Time to hit the ground

We followed a different and shorter route on our way back, as we needed to save on our fuel.

The flight back was as smooth as I could remember like a breeze. We were all in a joyful mood as we have once again achieved our target for the day. Once we reached Antara Gapi safely, we flew a few rounds above Antara Gapi’s town and successfully landed back on the take-off site. To be able to experience flying especially via paramotor is a true blessing, a privilege and addictive too.

Flying cross-country requires detail planning on both the route and the safety of the journey. Of course, they have to comply with certain rules and regulation before they could start their trips. Proper NOTAM needs to be requested from the authority and if the rules stipulated that they could not fly exceeding a certain height, then they need to adhere to the rules.

For those who yearn to experience a different way to explore the surrounding of Hulu Selangor, Malaysia you can always try a tandem flight via paramotor from this group of explorer PPG pilots. They can be contacted at https://www.facebook.com/janjifly.janjifly.

Thank you for spending your time reading my experience and journey. Till we meet again.

Cheers

MM


Learning about Shadow

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#morningshadow

There is so much drama in shadow.

Appear during the absence of light. Shadows drag along a sense of mystery in any art composition including photography. The element of shadow and light in Chiaroscuro and Rembrandt lighting technique are some of the tricks that I, as a photographer has to master. I am currently learning to appreciate shadows. Trying to understand how to be more artistic with shadows.

In reality, I hate shadow.

Hate is a very strong word.

Let me rephrase my word … I don’t really favor shadow in life. I try to avoid people with shadows too. I adore transparency … simple and easy, no hidden agenda, no secret plotting. I want to live my life as simple, less shadow and as minimal as possible.

I associate shadows with hidings and secrets. It was a thrill at first trying to figure out the mystery behind the shadow. But once I figured out the game and the implication, it becomes tiring.

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#slowshuttershadow

I fall in love with his shadow … knowing that the shadow is just feeding me fairy tales all along, I choose to play his game.

A shadow doesn’t commit to anything … always hiding and trying to avoid any form of commitment. Never willing to own up anything because the shadow is never real. After a while … when lights come the shadow fades away, completely out of sight. Leaving me alone again facing the reality of life.

That is how I see shadows … untouchable, unreachable, irresponsible, commitment freak and unpredictable. Chasing shadow is tiring. It feels like you are riding on a merry-go-round, round and round with no end. Happiness never works in hiding … happiness needs transparency, sincerity and commitment.

I want to let the shadow just be the shadow. Not wanting the shadow to be my savior anymore. I could be my own savior. After all, that is what shadows do best… it stays hiding.

I would look at the shadow only from my camera viewfinder from now on. Focusing on hunting for its shape whenever light appears and figure out on how to embed its artistic shape into the canvas of my composition.

I am living my moment and always in need of good sleep. Time for a quick snooze.

Bye for now

Cheers

Matsuda Mashimaru

 


another visit to Northern Vietnam

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End of season. Meo Vac. Ha Giang. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

My second visit here at Northern Vietnam and my first was five years ago.

This time around we covered Sapa, Y Ty, Ha Giang, Dong Van and the Ban Gioc waterfall in Cao Bang. We drove along the road close to the border of Vietnam and China starting and ending at Hanoi.

Acres and acres of dreamy layers of paddy field.

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Mysterious. Dong Van. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

The road is narrow, long, rough and winding but the view is worth the pain.

Due to its small road,  I think the best way to enjoy the landscape view here is with a motorbike. Riding slowly along the narrow path in between the layers and layers of paddy field and explore the life of Vietnamese ethnic minority here.

For the Muslim, halal food is difficult to find along the way. So, be prepared with your own food arrangement. I turned into a vegetarian whenever I travel, but it seemed like being a vegetarian here at Northern Vietnam is also very tough. Since I am aware of what I want to explore here … a little struggle on food has not dampened my spirit.

Just be a little flexible and creative on my diet choice then I would definitely survive.

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Me. Sapa valley. Northern Vietnam. September 2019

Our local guide during this trip is uniquely interesting.

An adventurous girl, she claimed that she is always lucky with the weather. During the week … yes indeed! the weather forecast predicted that we would have a strong storm for the whole week throughout our visit but the weather decided to treat us fairly with at least 50% sunlight, 30% foggy moody grumpy weather and 20% light rain. She is indeed our weather lucky charm.

I accepted the gloomy weather during this trip ‘as is’, not complaining.

Plan B. The best time to capture clouds movement. Slow shutter landscape shoot and time-lapse video. So at each location, rain or shine, I make it a point to capture time-lapse moments. Each recording takes up to at least an hour for a 5-second interval of at least 7 seconds time-lapse video using my GoPro.

Sharing my time-lapse video here at my youtube channel.

Gorgeous beautiful world that we stayed in, Masya Allah. And … I am grateful that I have the eyes to see and a heart to feel. I want to see more, I want to feel more.

Bye

 

Cheers

MM

24.01.2019

 

 


Am I lucky?

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Sweet little girl. Dong Van. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

How not to get bored of traveling?

My way? Planning for each travel trip is very important to me. If I plan to be at a place for say 14 days, I would plan on my everyday itinerary together with my backup plan if anything doesn’t go according to my plan.

Flexibility help reduces my anxiety.

I travel to do and see things I can’t at home. I hope to learn more about myself and being flexible allow me to be more open to a new self-experience.

My planning reflects my commitment to creating a unique different moment in each place that I visit. So that I could recall how does that place makes me FEEL years after years later.

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Sapa. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

I am glad that I am into photography. Morning light and afternoon light is always my favorite hours. So, I would be up very early in the morning and stayed until the last light, hunting and experiencing local festivals, market crowds, treks the hills to have a peek of the enchanting landscape, walking through a strangers village to have a look at how is life on this other side of the world and so on. The moment of learning and experiencing humanity is always a satisfying moment for me.

Wandering is a lot easier if you have a clear direction on where to go. Sharing some photos during my trip to Northern Vietnam last year. Will share more story during this trip on my next post. In Sha Allah

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Ban Gioc waterfall. Northern Vietnam. September 2018

And last question … am I lucky? Yes, I feel lucky therefore I am lucky. Have a good day dear reader. Bye.

 

Cheers

MM

10.01.2019

 

 

 

 


Bored with Traveling

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Sapa. Northern Vietnam. September. 2018

A friend asked me.

After so many places that I have been to, do I not feel bored?

After a while every place would look the same, she claimed. She travels a lot too. Covering common touristy places that normal tourist would go but yes, I think she has a good point there.

We tend to overdo things.

And when we overdo things, we’ll get numb and bored.

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A farmer.Dong Van. Northern Vietnam.September 2018

I call it the “touch and go” kind of traveling … get to your next stop, the Instagram famous spot,  then click here click there in 30 minutes run to the bus to the next stop, click here click there in 20 minutes back to the bus again and repeating that for 7 days while covering for 6 continents (I am exaggerating here yah).

After a few trips like this … places will look the same, there is not enough time to FEEL. The reason we travel is to experience the FEEL. Every place offered a different opportunity for us to FEEL but we need more than 30 minutes to explore the new surrounding and experiencing FEEL.

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Hmong people. Dong Van. Northern Vietnam. September 2019

How not to get bored while constantly traveling? Create a unique moment for each place that you visited. To do that … you need to do slow traveling.

Take more time at each place. Breath the air. Wander along the street. Explore local markets. Stay at the local’s home. Trek the mountain. Cycle around the town. Hangout at the local restaurant. Join the local festival.

Time for bed. It is 11:25pm on 03.01.2019. Will continue my rant on my next post. Goodnight.

Cheers

MM


Calmer 2019

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Dong Van. Northern Vietnam.September.2019

Another new year.

Feeling obnoxious. Adding up another year to my age. 2018 was not a very productive year and the mental exhaustion sometimes makes me want to quit from being the nicer me. Maybe this is maturity.

Overthinking. Fear that something might go wrong if I choose a different path. People of my age prefer to just choose the most comfortable path. But I always have that rebellious voice aka conscious voice that I want to listen to.

It seems like maturity took a heavy toll of my childish inner self. I am still not sure how to deal with it. Give it time … maybe Allah will show me the right path.

In the meantime … life goes on.

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Kashmir. India. October.2018

Happy new year to y’all who dropped by here reading my online journal.

Resolution? Naaahhh … no new resolution for me this year. I will always do what I always do … giving my best effort in everything that I do. I am not brave nor I am strong. If pushing myself to survive is this adventurous, damn …I would do this, again and again, for a million time.

Time for bed. It’s 12:04 AM now. A new year. A new day. A new challenge. Have faith.

Bye

MM

02.01.2019

 

 

 

 

 

 


That’ll be fun

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keep your head up boys and survive the best way you could

For months I tried to find the excuse to re-visit my childhood hometown. Being born and raised during my teenage life in Tawau, Sabah, this place has a soft spot in my heart. I miss the food … I miss my old childhood friends and I miss talking in the Sabahan dialect too.

This time around, my excuse is … I am re-visiting islands around Semporna for the second time. Had a good deal return ticket from KL to Tawau and spent a few days hanging out in Tawau with my childhood friends while enjoying the weekends at the islands surrounding Semporna, hunting the light with some new friends.

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the sea gypsies of islands surrounding Semporna, Sabah

I miss the salty air and the beautiful endless open sky. As we were speeding off to Selakan Island from Semporna jetty, I can’t help reminiscing the old sweet years when I used to spend my weekend doing island hopping with my compact camera. Carefree years … when my camera was just so light and the years where I carried my flippers more than my camera.

I am feeling old … only old people reminiscing their old sweet memories.

My second visit to this beautiful place. The first time in 2015 when I was still fresh in this photography world, at that time everything looked new and exciting to me. Guess what … the second trip is as excited as before, I am born to do this … to wander around my surrounding and just fall deeper into my own world while doing … the THINKING, lol (so much to think about).

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gypsy girls swinging carefreely

Timbun Mata, Bodgaya, Maiga, Selakan, Gusungan, Ormadal and a lot more surrounding islands that we can explore. The setting of each island looks damn good during sunset and sunrise. And, I noticed something different this time around with my new travel mates … they play with the drones more than their cameras.

A new way of enjoying our beautiful surrounding which is aerial photography. Now everybody can fly … me? I think I would just stick to my paramotor addiction. Flying with a group of motivated adventurous paramotor pilots and enjoying the raw aerial view with my own eyes, self-satisfaction. I get to feel the fear of the unknown circumstances while flying … while the drone players fear that they would lose their drone signal and later would lose the drone.

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a girl drying fish at the beach in Maiga Island

What makes a place interesting?

For me … it’s the people that reside in the place that makes the place compelling. In here the sea gypsies people are well blended with their nature. Life is simple.

But for a thinker … you’ll get worried just by looking at the children paddling here and there aimlessly. I always believe that every child needs to go to school, at least to learn reading, writing, calculating and reading the Quran.

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Zainab and her lunch for today

By giving that basic skill to our children we fulfilled at least the very minimal responsibility as a parent to them. Giving them the skills will help them make a better choice in life. It is up to the parents though. I saw a few schools here in some islands. Maybe they just choose not to send their children to school.

Ahh well … enough worrying, at least they are happy with their choice of life. As I said earlier … it’s a simple life, no ruffles.

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sunrise in Maiga island

I always want to say this at the end of my writing … that I want to visit the same place again and again. 3 days 2 night is not enough … it was cloudy during the 3 days that we were there and on the second day, we were chased by the storm during sunset at Bodgaya Island. I think a week would be good.

The cloudy stormy sky is the best time to capture time-lapse as the clouds would move rapidly. Sharing my time-lapse video here for y’alls. Amazing moment captured using my small gopro6.

And last but not least, belanja a picture of me under the stormy cloud for my fan out there (perasan … lol am being cynical here) and for those people who are not so my fan, please underestimate me, that’ll be fun. Annyeong …

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Underestimate me please, that’ll be fun

 

Cheers

MM

ps: if life gave you lemon, make lemonade.


Strike of luck

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A moment when I passed through this fishing boat

What does photography teach me?

As I add more months and years to my photography experience, I learned about the role of “stroke of luck” in my artwork. Unplanned moments or shall I say accidentally moments that just hit the “jackpot” or a rewarding moment that made my day as a photographer.

It was 100% totally luck. I was in the right place at the right time with the right people.

Just that.

I always see it as a gift … a gift from the invisible hand, the Planner. Each time I came across such moment I feel grateful and contended.

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A moment when I passed over a pond filled with wild buffaloes

So each time when I am sad and feeling unlucky … I would scroll down and browse through my lucky moments. Telling myself … for each moment that I am at lost, I would experience more lucky moments as a reward for my perseverance and my patience.

I take photography personally. Most of the time I captured my own moment … moments that related to me. A way for me to learn and understand about life. To calm my soul when things don’t work accordingly, as the Planner always has a better plan for me. I just need to trust Him.

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A sunset moment when the golden light decided to be generous

“Art depends on luck and talent”

Whenever you came across that lucky moment, you need the talent to be able to recognize such moment and you need the technical skill to decide on what and how to properly frame it. How do you do it?

Practice makes perfect.

Sleep deprived. Need to doze off. Bye …

Cheers

MM

ps: TEDx Talks about  Mastering Change by Michael Yamashita.

 


Eid Fitr Mubarak 1438H/ 2017M

Eid Fitr Mubarak to all my Muslim readers near and far, all over the world.

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My mom preparing Kelantanese traditional ketupat for Eid celebration

Ramadhan 29th, 1438H/ 2017M: Last day of Ramadhan for this year and tomorrow would be the start of Shawal. Sad to see the holy month is about to end this afternoon. The spiritual night routine and the day time struggle to guide oneself towards understanding humanity is very nourishes to my soul.

I experienced new lessons during this Ramadhan. The first time for me breaking fast/ iftar at the nearby mosque with hundreds of fasting Muslims. A few of us shared the same tray of food, sitting on the floor while enjoying our rice with side dishes together. Then we performed our tarawih prayers together as one ummah. The warm feeling flew deeply inside me … my first time.

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My ‘food tray mate’

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And this is how the food moves

A calmer month for me this time around, learning and seeking for in-depth peace between me and my Almighty Creator. Thanks to my children and friendly soulful friends around me … they never failed to warm my heart. And, thanks to that particular soul too. Alhamdullilah ….

And, tomorrow would be back to normal business again for me. I hope to be able to adopt whatever that I have learned during the holy month into my daily life too … a quest to be the better me. In Sha Allah

 

Bye

MM

 

ps- am placing my camera on alert for my mom’s beautiful moment while preparing for the Eid Fitr celebration. Life is short … a soul would come and go, according to Allah’s plan.

 


A sub-zero journey in Siberia

“If you want to catch a beast you don’t see every day. You have to go places quite out of the way. You have to go places no others can get to. You have to get cold and you have to get wet, too” ~ Dr. Seuss

Love … love .. love that quote by Dr. Seuss about hunting for beast at the most difficult and isolated place. A place where I should get wet and cold. In fact, the place that I went to was far beyond cold but freezing below sub-zero type of icy cold.

Ulan Baator of Mongolia and Lake Baikal of Southeast Siberia via Trans-Siberian railway train.

I would briefly share the details of our journey and the actual transportation cost in this post. Hoping to inspire you to be a little adventurous and travel more.

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#travelers ~ Areza Mansor, Azli Wahab and Matsuda

Definitely the most chilling journey.

I haven’t been to either North or South pole yet …so I am not sure how to compare the difference, but I was informed that here in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia -36℃ during winter is just normal. It’s darn cold enough for a tropical girl like me.

For almost 2 years, I have been wanted to explore Mongolia but friends kept on telling me that travelling to Mongolia and Russia is difficult and expensive.

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#stuckonice: Rashaant Village, Bulgan province, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

Early this year (2017), out of the blue I posted about Eagle Hunters of the Kazakh people of Mongolia on my facebook timeline and my trekker friend (I met during my last trip) invited me to tag along with his backpacking trip to China- Mongolia- Russia- Europe. They plan to explore Mongolia and Russia via Trans-Siberian Railway.

Being the green brain with an impromptu mind, I agree to travel together with them. But decided to join only for the first half of the trip (15 days) covering Mongolia and Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia.

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Shuvuun Am, Valley, Altan Bulag village, Tuv province, Mongolia

We started in Beijing. I traveled alone from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and met them at the airport. Pick up our train ticket and took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Baator, Mongolia and continue to Russia.

Traveling in-between boarders is challenging on its own especially in winter. Dealing with the language barrier and the immigration procedure requires a high level of patience.

Having a good travel companion is a bliss.

My travel companions were a gift from heaven … my first time traveling with them but the understanding and tolerance between us were excellent, we wickedly clicked! A blessed again … Alhamdullilah and I have no complaints.

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#metime ~ Resting time before lunch at Lake Baikal, I miss this moment

Some people love to travel alone and some just couldn’t.

As I traveled along this trip, I realized that I don’t prefer to travel alone. Having a good companion while traveling especially when you were stuck on a train for days and when you were traveling in hard places like this … a good companion is a blessing.

So, we spent 27 hours on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Bator, Mongolia (rm1340). Explored Ulan Baator and its surrounding for 8 days and continued our journey again to Irkutsk, Southeast Siberia via Trans-Siberian Railway from Ulan Baator to Irkutsk (35 hours for approximately rm822).

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#minimalistme ~ Every day means of transportation here in Lake Baikal

The train ride was comfortable, the heater available at all time along the journey.

Our only issue was on power point. We constantly need to charge our gadgets and the only available power point is in the hallway in front of our room. We were basically hibernating like a little squirrel curled up in its little burrow in winter. Thank God we did not miss our Irkutsk station.

We reached Irkutsk train station at a wee hour, grab a car (200 rubles/ 500 rubles)  in front of the station heading to Irkutsk bus station and tried to catch an early bus to Olkhon Island of Lake Baikal, Russia. Never thought that it would be this easy though.

The 10.00am bus to Olkhon Island was right across the road in front of the bus station (800 rubles per person/ 1100 rubles per person). The arrangement was quite easy but the language barrier seemed to be the major problem as the English language was like an alien language here at this side of Russia. (actual cost/ ripped off cost)

Lake Baikal in winter is beyond words.

Totally an alien place for the 3 of us. Amazingly different. It was freezingly cold but the view and experience of spending our moment there is priceless.

We stayed for 4 days in Lake Baikal exploring North (800 rubles) and South (1000 rubles) sides of the frozen lake. When we were there, the weather was a bit disturbing. It snows heavily a few days earlier and most of the frozen surface was covered with snow.

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Lake Baikal the frozen lake

We booked our accommodations online and decided to go easy with our transportation arrangement as booking for transportation through the internet was quite expensive. We stayed in a shared hostel in Olkhlon Island and discovered that arranging for transportation to and from the Island was surprisingly very convenient.

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Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia, Russia

We took a public bus on our way back from Olkhlon Island to Irkutsk for 800 rubles per person and grab a car from bus station to our hostel, which turned out that it was just a few km away (200 rubles/ 500 rubles) lol. Well … opportunist is everywhere and things just happened.

We spent a day wandering around Irkutsk… an industrial city but in winter, there was nothing much to see. I would probably come again one day and wander around interesting places in Russia too. Who knows … right?

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My article in NST click! sharing tips on taking photographs in extreme cold

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Us in 3 at Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia, Russia

Conclusion: Traveling as a true traveler (not a touch and go tourist) matures us but I do understand that not everybody is built for an extreme adventure like this. I agree that the journey from Beijing to Ulan Bator and to Lake Baikal is challenging. To be able to enjoy this type of adventure you need to be healthy and well prepared.

I admit it was tough. Not everybody can do this especially when we have such a comfortable and warm life at home, and for me, if you want to experience and learn more about life, you gotta step out of your comfort zone. I am currently pushing myself out of it every day now …

Owhhh … am very sleepy, I need my power nap! gotta run … bye

Cheers,

MM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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