Adventures in Hang Son Doong, the World’s Largest Cave

Considered as the largest cave world over, the three million-year-old cave is located in central Vietnam. The cave’s name translates as ‘Mountain River Cave’. The cave ceiling is spread 100 meters over our heads. Sun rays stream in through the serrated sides of the cliffs. The high-pitched calls of the macaque monkeys and the birds bounce off the limestone walls, resounding from the world past the skylight. The Hang Son Doong cave is situated in Vietnam’s Quang Binh province in the middle of the Phong Nha-Ke National park.

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In 1990, a local farmer, Ho Khanh, stumbled upon the cave. While in the jungle, he heard the gushing sounds of the underground river and saw clouds hanging above the large opening in the limestone. He reported his discovery to the British Caving Research Association but sadly, upon his return he got lost and could not find the cave. The cave remained lost for eighteen years, and in 2008 as he was hunting for food, Ho found the entrance to the cave again. A year later he returned with Howard and Deb Limbert both from the BCRA.

The Hang Son Doong covers an area of more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) and a height of two hundred meters. The main grotto is huge enough to accommodate a whole New York City housing block. The Hang Son Doong was for the first time opened to the public in 2013, with the Oxalis tour company offering limited 5-day expeditions. The use of only one Tour Company has helped protect the cave from huge developments. The tours run once a week from February to August yearly and only ten customers are allowed for each departure.

The Hang Son Doong has a unique eco-system with its own localized weather. Scattered in the dried pools are the unique limestone cave pearls and the biggest stalagmite ever stands eighty meters tall. The collapsed cave ceilings have formed openings called dolines, which allow plant life to grow in the cave.

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The journey into the Hang Son Doong involves a 2-day trek through thick jungle shrubbery and crossing rivers to arrive at the cave’s entrance. Night-time is spent camping within the cave and the close by Hang En cave. The Hang En has come to be recognized as the third largest cave world over. In order to get to the end of the cave, hikers climb, crawl, abseil and swim through the underground rivers, making this a remarkable adventure. Even with the physical strains, guests are well cared for; accompanied by 2 caving experts, two chefs, three local guides, 20 porters and two park rangers who ensure the expedition is exceptional and safe. Small tour groups ensure the cave is preserved as well.

The Quang Binh province has greatly benefited from the growing tourism after the discovery of the cave. Many locals turned to tourism after guests started arriving; this has contributed greatly to the provinces’ economic growth. Local entrepreneurs have established hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and eco-conservation companies to work together with the caving expeditions.

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In recent years, the Sun Group, a Vietnamese development firm has been forward with its intention to construct a cable car to the Hang Son Doong. In 2015, strong opposition from the UNESCO and other activist groups urged the Vietnamese government to briefly stop the construction permits. The cable car construction still looms and it remains unknown whether the approval will be allowed.

Some people are for the idea that tourism will keep benefiting the locals, while others express their concern regarding the destruction tourism will cause to the ecosystem due to the high numbers of guests it brings. Comparable projects like the Mount Fansipan and the Halong Bay have experienced major environmental due to tourism. It can only be anticipated that a responsible and sustainable decision is arrived at to help preserve the Hang Son Doong.


Kally

Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food.

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com

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Guest Post: Iceland! More amazing nature!

Iceland has many different views …here are more…. amazing waterfalls…

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Seljalandsfoss a 60m waterfall in a lovely location,surrounded by cliffs and green slopes.

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A footpath leads behind the waterfall… little bit wet….

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such beautiful green….

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This is Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano which broke out in April 2010 and had me and mum stranded in Germany for a week because of the ash in the air so the planes couldn’t fly. We now saw it dormant with snow. (1660m high) I never thought I would see this volcano.

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Then we went to a crashed plane wreck on the coast on black sand. It was a US Navy DC3 and it crashed 1973 because it ran out of fuel. All survived and it turned out later that the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank.

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I went even inside….

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It feels it is in the middle of nowhere but in the back you can see the glacier.

Black sand just everywhere.

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Very little growth…

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I loved the sand and the sea, it was sunny too, see I tanned a bit!

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This is the Solheimajokull glacier.

It says that with the global warming it can disappear within 100 to 200 years.

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The last stop was the huge Skogafoss Waterfall.

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We got very wet, but as the sun was shining the rainbow went all the way round.

So beautiful!

We walked all the way to the top.

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We had a busy day and chilled out with an original Icelandic yogurt – Skyr

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We enjoyed the whole experience as well as the Icelandic food!

I can only recommend Iceland for its nature, wonderful people, clean air, amazing drinking water ( ph 8.8- tastes fantastic) and its food.

I hope you enjoyed my day trip as much as I did!


Writer’s Profile
screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-9-37-17-pmMy name is Ute and my blog is about my passion in life. Positive living, beauty, music and dancing. I hope you enjoy reading and that it gives my readers ideas and inspiration in their lives. I am a happy person and like to make others happy too! Love life, music and dance. Live today as for tomorrow it will be all history! Go to her blog at https://utesmile.wordpress.com

An Impulsive Solo Trip to Surabaya

Looking at one of my girlfriends’ Facebook posts about her trip to Mount Bromo excites me and I immediately book an air ticket to Surabaya. I started to ask her details about her trip and engaged a private tour guide, named Ebrott. It is quite upsetting to learn that he has to work at a tender age of 17 to support the family as his dad has passed on. His service is extraordinarily good, courteous and patient.

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There are a couple of airlines that fly directly to Surabaya. You can choose either Air Asia or JetStar. My first stop is a 5 to 6 hours’ drive from city to the foot of Mount Bromo. I spent a night in a local guesthouse. It comes with basic minimal necessities – a bed and toilet. It is very cold – approximately 16 degree at night. Hence, don’t expect a fan or air condition in the room.

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To catch Sunrise at Mount Bromo, I have to wake up at 2am as Ebrott is picking me up at 3am. We will be travelling via a jeep as the road is bumpy and uphill. We reached the peak at about 3.30am. The temperature is so cold we decided to get something hot from one of the stalls. The sun starts to rise at 4.30am. The view is magnificent and unforgettable. It’s the power of nature and we should treasure it.

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We stayed for 2 hours enjoying the nature of light and went for breakfast. The simple comfort food – bowl of soup noodles and egg is all I asked for. Simple food like this means a lot to me especially after the breathtaking view, I have to appreciate simplicity even more. We continue the journey to the other side where you can take a horse ride to the foot of Mount Bromo before climbing up through a sea of sand to the crater.  

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After Mount Bromo, we travelled another 4 hours to a hotel near Kawah Ijen for a good rest and nap. I am going to catch Ijen Blue Fire hence needs to set off at 11pm. Please prepare to gear up your good trekking/hiking shoes, windproof jacket and pants. Bring a bottle of water and light snacks along. You’ll be sure to thank me for this tip!  

The hike up and down to catch the glimpse of Blue Fire took me 2 hours. Someone like me who doesn’t hike as frequently as I want to, I must say I feel so proud accomplishing the mission. Yay! A lot of determination and strength is required and the overall experience is worth it. Pace yourself well and take your time. 

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It’s time to head back to Surabaya city. Travelling back is approximately 8 hours. Have patience with the tour guide. He is tired as well. Since I am the passenger, I get to sleep and rest throughout the journey. On and off we did a few pit stops for meals and break. I checked into Ascott Waterplace at about 5pm. And something caught my eye – A&W fast food restaurant opposite the hotel. I couldn’t resist and pack a meal back to the room. I made an advanced booking of Body Massage at 8pm which is indeed the best choice after 2 days of hiking.  

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Personal Thoughts after the trip: I think I have become stronger from all aspects of myself. The power of determination and achieving the Goals set.  Thank You, Ebrott (@hisba_93) for being a helpful and supportive friend and teaching me to be contented with what I have in life and the beauty of simplicity. 

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Cycling around Holland

Holland is the perfect place to explore by bike. The country has many cycle paths and sign posted cycle routes, the landscape is flat, distances are short and there are lots to see and do along the way. So come visit the Netherlands and get on a bike!

Nearly every road has a cycle path called a ‘Fietspad’ which links most villages and towns. These ‘Fietspads’ are mostly separate and away from the road itself (unlike most of our cycle paths in Britain which are a miserly bit of the road marked off with a white line, if we’re lucky!). One of the curious facts of the Holland: nearly 85 percent of the population own at least one bicycle. They use it regularly, often daily. There are about 16 million bicycles in Holland, slightly more than one for every inhabitant. About 1.3 million new bicycles are sold every year.

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To make cycling safer and more inviting the Dutch have built a vast network of cycle paths. These are clearly marked, have smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights for those on two wheels, and wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking. In many cities the paths are completely segregated from motorised traffic. Sometimes, where space is scant and both must share, you can see signs showing an image of a cyclist with a car behind accompanied by the words ‘Bike Street: Cars are guests’.

A good overview map is the Sterkste Fietskaart Van Nederland. It’s made of a laminated paper that holds up in the rain and 2 maps cover the entire country, one for the north of the Holland and one for the south of the Holland. Countless regional maps are also available, many produced by Falk.

Below routes represent the different types of cycle experiences you can have in Holland.

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Amsterdam Forest

With paths either dedicated to walking, cycling or horse riding, the Amsterdam Forest (Amsterdamse Bos) is probably the best park for cycling in the world. The routes take you through a mosaic of wooded areas, grassland, reed lands and open water. With a high density of things to see and do, it is the perfect playground for youngsters getting used to explore by bike!

 

North Sea

More cycling pleasure awaits along the North Sea, where the LF1 bike route traces the coastline for nearly 300km. The paved bike paths in this part of the Netherlands take you on a rolling ride, over the crests of the endless sand dunes. None of the hills are particularly big but this is a good ride to challenge the notion that Holland is entirely flat.

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Zeeland

The photogenic flatness of the Dutch landscape comes alive in Zeeland, the most south-westerly province where the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt rivers meet the sea. Its 400-mile coastline has cycle paths through towns such as Cadzand, Oostkapelle and Westkapelle.

 

Dutch Railway

When you want to cycle just for a day or a couple of days the routes of the Dutch Railways are excellent. Main advantages: it is easy to hire a bicycle at the railway station. These routes make a nice day of cycling. An overview of these 18 routes you’ll find on the Dutch Railway website, where you can download the route description.


Writer’s Profile

Kally

Kally is a former Sales and Customer Service manager turned Writer and Founder of MiddleMe.net. She came from Singapore; lived in Shanghai and now calls Kuala Lumpur her home. After hanging up her corporate briefcase, she now pursue her passions – Writing, Traveling and of course, hunting for good food

Connect with me @ Kally@ladyredot.com

Guest Post: Keeping Your Routine While Travelling

Years ago, kept your routine while travelling required a lot of commitment and dedication. I think nowadays we have good options to continue working out if we have to travel. Let´s review a few:
Hotels with gym. Unfortunately, not available for any pocket. But if you can afford it, this is one option you want to consider. Let me tell you it won´t be perfect, it will be a “new gym”. You may like it or not. You´re used to your gym and maybe you´ll miss your favourite machine. Don´t worry, it´s temporary. Get your workout done.
Local gyms. Search “gym, city” on google maps. As easy as that 🙂
If you don´t like gyms and usually workout at home. Then, what´s the problem? Don´t forget your resistance bands or TRX at home. If your room is not big enough, don´t be afraid to go outdoors. There is always a spot where to anchor your equipment.
Last, and most important. Even if you don´t exercise, you should stretch at the end of the day. Whether it´s a business or leisure trip, you shouldn´t skip your stretching routine. After a long day away from home, the best we can do is take care of our body, give some relief to our soreness muscles, getting ready to sleep… or enjoy the nightlife!
One way or another, all my trips include a lot of walking. I use these simple exercises to relief tightness and I strongly recommend you to give them a try. 
 
1. Stand a little less than arm’s distance from a wall.
2. Step one leg forward and one leg back, keeping your feet parallel.
3. Bend your forward knee and press through your back heel.
4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
 
(I do this one, instead the standing stretch, because I have a lower back injury)
1. Lie on your left side on the floor with your legs extended straight away from your body. Allow your head to rest on the lower arm. Bend your right (top) knee bringing your right foot towards your right hip. Grasp your foot or ankle with your right hand. Keep your spine in neutral position.
2. Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize the pelvis. Exhale and use your hand to gently pull yourfoot and lower leg backward and up toward your tailbone. Keep the bent knee pointing straight away from thehip joint. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds, then straighten the leg and engage the thigh muscles. Repeat the series for 2-5 repetitions; change sides and repeat with the right leg.
 
1. Lie on your back on the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Keep one leg extended as you bring the other knee to your chest. Hold it with both hands.
2. Exhale and slowly extend your leg to the ceiling by contracting the muscles on the front of the thigh. Pull your toes downwards toward your body and push your heel toward the ceiling. This will increase the stretch in your hamstrings and calf muscles. Do not allow any movement in your hips and low back during this stretch.
3. Hold this position for 15 – 30 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
 
1. Lie on your back on the floor, with bent knees.
2. Cross your left leg over the right; resting your left foot on your right knee. With both hands, reach down and grab the back of the right thigh. Exhale and pull your right thigh and knee toward your chest. Try to maintain a ninety-degree bend in both knees while in this position.
3.  Change legs placing the right foot on the left knee and repeat.
4. Exercise Variation: Use a chair (or bed), which will allow your hip and knee to remain at ninety-degree angles. 
 
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Knees should be straight. Bend your left knee and place the sole of the left foot against the inside of your right thigh. Sit as tall and straight as possible keeping your head aligned with your spine. Place your hands on the top of your right thigh.
2. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, sliding your hands toward your ankle. Do not allow the back to round. Keep your head aligned with your spine. Do not lower or lift the chin. The knee should remain straight with the toes pointed toward the ceiling. This should stretch your hamstrings and calf muscles, with some stretching in your low and middle back.
3. Hold this position for 15 – 30 seconds. Relax and return to your starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg.
 
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Point your toes towards the ceiling without bending your knees. Try to make your torso vertical to the floor and your head aligned with your spine. Place your hands on the top of your thighs.
2. Exhale as you slowly hinge forward at the hips, sliding your hands down your legs toward your ankles. Try to keep the back flat. Keep your head aligned with your spine, knees straight and toes pointed upwards toward the ceiling. This should stretch your calves and hamstrings, with some stretching in your low and middle back.
3. Hold this position for 15 – 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat 3-4 times. 

Guest Post: Long Duration Flights

It’s fun to fly on holiday every now and then, but any time in the sky, from a couple of hours to a whole day or more when crossing multiple time zones is, for the human body, a real challenge.

Aside from the cabin pressure and dry air, sitting immobile for hours is anything but restful. Long periods of immobility increase the risk as sitting and leg room are cramped. Dehydration and low cabin pressure are also contributors, according to the American Heart Association.

Be active. The only thing that gets that blood from the lower body back up to the heart is muscle contraction, so move around and flex those leg muscles regularly.

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Lift your feet a few inches off the ground.
Rotate each foot in opposite directions: clockwise and counter-clockwise motion.
Move your feet slowly and fluidly.
10 circles each direction.
Start with your feet flat.
Raise your heels as much as you can, then lower and raise your toes.
Repeat 10 times.
Move your feet slowly and fluidly.
Embrace one knee with both hands and gently bring it to your chest. Take 5 deep breaths holding this position.
Repeat with the other knee.
Bring the shoulders back, then up toward the ears, and then forward and down as low as possible.
Rotate the shoulders in a big, smooth, circular motion.
Make big, slow, and fluid movements.
It´s difficult to roll the neck while seated so,
Gently bend the head toward one shoulder and breath in that position 5 times. Back to the neutral position and bend toward the other shoulder and breathe again.
Next, drop the chin toward the chest. Take 5 deep breaths and back to the neutral position. Last, drop your head back and… breathe.
Relax the muscles that aren’t directly involved in these stretches. For example, the shoulder muscles.
– Of course, go to the toilet, even if you don´t need to. Honestly, it´s the best way you can stretch and move your legs.
Have a happy and safe flight 🙂