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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Burma’s Rising Capital

Naypyitaw, the roughly 12-year old nation capital of Burma, has been called many things since it was created. A ghost town, a post-apocalyptic suburb. Its 16-lane roads are vast and endless, and apparently unused by motorists or pedestrians. The larger-than-life mansions and villas that look uninhabited. You could hear a host of negative things about Burma’s relatively new capital, all of which will discourage you from even thinking of the name of the place.

Or you could hear another view: Naypyitaw is awesome. Yes, the place is quiet, and yes, it looks like actual living beings are scarce, but Naypyitaw is awesome. You can’t let that turn you away from visiting one of the most beautiful nation capitals in the world now, will you?

Naypyitaw – Not Isolated: Surrounded

The city is said to be isolated on all sides for at least fifty miles around (verification needed about that), but Naypyitaw is actually strategically located between Rangoon, the former capital, and Mandalay (verification provided).

Naypyitaw is also a part of another town called Pyinmana, which is another place you should visit in Burma. It is a lovely historic town with teak and brick edifices and shady, leafy lanes.

With the number of residents increasing, mosques have been built, and there is also a Catholic Church in the city if you really need to go to church.

Naypyitaw – No Ghost Town

People actually live and work in the new capital, and, despite the fact that there is seemingly no traffic, the roads are used by people coming and going in trucks or on motorcycles.

Naypyitaw – There is Food!

Where there are people, you will always find food. Restaurants are thriving in the new capital, with several options to choose from, depending on your tastes and your pockets.

The Santino Café is a restaurant and bakery mix that serves a broad spectrum of dishes, including Japanese, Thai, European, Chinese, and American.

Maw Khan Nong 2 lets you enjoy bowls of delicious Shan noodles with a cold beer on the outdoor terrace.

You can visit the YKKO to sample their noodles: they are to die for. What’s more, your dining options are all in the same area, so you can’t get lost.

Naypyitaw – Not a Boring Moment

There are places to go and things to see in the new capital for everyone. History buffs can visit the museum to see the rich culture and history of Burma, or go to the Uppatasanti Pagoda, a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, which is filled four jade Buddha images facing the four directions, and carved reliefs showing scenes from Gautama Buddha’s past lives.

Love nature? Visit the Naypyitaw Zoological Gardens, and the Safari Park, which has many species animals, including the rare white tiger.

Naypyitaw – Who Said You Can’t Stay?

There are several hotels operating in Naypyitaw, including the Hilton, which has rooms with a ore international feel to them; Kempinski, built with classic Bamar-style wood carving and roofed walkways; and the Lake Garden MGallery Collection, whose on site restaurants are among the best in the city.

If you love exotic travels as much as we do, come and drop us an email askus@ladyredot.com to find out where is our next adventure!


Hi, I’m Kally. A Singaporean who has been relocated twice, first to Shanghai, now based in Kuala Lumpur. I have always been the avid traveller since young. I had my passport made even before I went to primary school! I travel extensively during my free time, either on tour groups or backpacking around Europe and all within the recent years. I am exposed to many different cultures and places, which allow me, to have the ability to look at many things and situation from various angles. Having gained 20 years of corporate world, I decided it is time for me to hang up my briefcase and heels to indulge my passion: Writing and Traveling. The two passions that give me pure enjoyment and liberation. As much as I enjoy traveling and writing, I strive on assisting people in making their lives easier. This is evidently shown in MiddleMe.net where I am the founder and editor. Allow me @ kally@ladyredot.com to help you to pen down your next trip abroad!

My Adventures in Bhutan

Bhutan – which translates as “the Land of the Thunder Dragon”- is a small landlocked country, hidden in the eastern side of Himalayas between the sprawling enfold of China and India. The country’s single international airport is located in the hilly side of Paro valley. Most of the connections to Bhutan are via Bangkok and Delhi with limited access from northern side from India.

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Thimphu, the capital city, although in its growth stages, is growing rapidly. Even with a new domestic airport in the south, we mostly journeyed alongside single-lane roads which warped round valleys or plummeted down mountainsides.

Our team toured the Taktsang monastery – also called Tiger’s Nest- Bhutan’s main tourist attraction. The temple -dates back to the 15th century- is an out of this world accomplishment of engineering, white-walls and red-roof on top of an obdurate visage of stone, thrusting 1,000m into the sky. The temple has an easier access rebuilt and has greatly helped potential pilgrims.

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In addition to efforts of maintaining sustainable development and preserving Bhutan’s natural environment, cultural principles are upheld. Tourist numbers to Bhutan are dwindling due to the difficult access, and a “high-end” tourism policy supported by the Bhutanese Tourism Council. A seasonal daily tariff of between $200-250 is to be paid by each tourist.

Overlooking the paddy Paro-basin fields is the Uma Paro- an International Hotel and Resort, where we were staying. Using conventional Bhutanese plan and a set round courtyard, the central building houses the rooms. A lustrous spa area and a serene indoor pool are to be found in the basement.

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Dining in the Bukhari restaurant was the best part for me. The restaurant design extends from the belly of the central building and the plan encompasses a focus-point stone fireplace, amid a view from each table. Nonetheless, if you opt for some privacy, eight spacious one-bed roomed villas are available. The villas expand up the hill following the central building; room-service is offered and each has a spa room of its own.

“Tour of the Dragon” race , which was held here from 2010 to 2011 was aimed at promoting mountain biking. The race-course mapped out the mountainous path between Bumthang to the east and Thimphu, covering a distance of over 267km. I later came to learn that December is the most ideal time for this sport since there are no monsoon rains and the air is cooler.

Paro is the single-most heavily visited Bhutan city, and it is bordered by tactfully hidden luxury resorts, and yet it’s hardly bigger than a village in the Alps. We ventured the magnificent river-bank Rinpung Dzong castle, voyaging on its pretty suspension bridge, taking regular stops to savor the spectacular view down below of the cascading, jade-colored river.

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We finally arrived at the grand courtyards of Punakha Dzong, the temple at the confluence of two great rivers where the king had fêted his marriage. From here we could observe the Upper Valley, families doing their daily errands and above, the majestic Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten was glowing, as it towered above the Bhutan country.

Curious about my trip in Bhutan? Want to explore Bhutan? Why not askus@ladyredot.com?


Kally Hi, I’m Kally. A Singaporean who has been relocated twice, first to Shanghai, now based in Kuala Lumpur. I have always been the avid traveller since young. I had my passport made even before I went to primary school! I travel extensively during my free time, either on tour groups or backpacking around Europe and all within the recent years. I am exposed to many different cultures and places, which allow me, to have the ability to look at many things and situation from various angles. Having gained 20 years of corporate world, I decided it is time for me to hang up my briefcase and heels to indulge my passion: Writing and Traveling. The two passions that give me pure enjoyment and liberation. As much as I enjoy traveling and writing, I strive on assisting people in making their lives easier. This is evidently shown in MiddleMe.net where I am the founder and editor. Allow me @ kally@ladyredot.com to help you to pen down your next trip abroad!

To The Ends Of The World in Choquequirao

Many people say only the tough ones can make it to Choquequirao. They may be right. To get there, one has to tackle the 45 kilometer trek (back and forth) and numerous elevation change. It’s definitely not an easy feat, but it is going to be totally worth it.

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Brief Background

Choquequirao, Chuqi K’iraw or Chuqik’iraw, which means “cradle of gold,” is a remote Incan site  in the Andes. It is on the Vilcabamba mountain range and is 3,050 meters above the ground.

People call it the “sister of Machu Picchu” because aside from the fact that it is located in Peru, its structure and architecture are also very similar to that of its more famous sibling. Choquequirao, however, spans up to three times the size of Machu Picchu (although only 30% of it is visible) and gets only a handful of visitors daily. (Machu Picchu has more than 2,000 visitors a day while Choquequirao has only had about 5,000 visitors since 2013).

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How to Get There

Choquequirao can be reached by hiking or trekking for three days (or even up to more than a week) just outside Cusco. The starting point is the village of Cachora (just 5 hours away from Cusco), and then through the Apuramic Valley, and then to Chiquisca where travelers pitch their tents and spend the night. The next morning, the journey involves uphill trek to Santa Rosa and to Marampata. The travelers will then have to descend to 2000 meters, and then ascend again to 3000 meters (and this pattern repeats all throughout).

Choquequirao is, again, not easily accessible (but the 5,000 travelers who have gone there will surely tell you it will be all worth it). The journey requires high level of fitness and determination. To get around, it is also advised that you get an experienced guide.

P.S If you are wondering how to get back to the starting point, it’s the same way you came: trek up and down!

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When to Go

It is best to go anytime between May and October as this season has the driest months of the year. However, still expect occasional rain even during the dry season.

While in Choquequirao

Choquequirao gives you a glimpse of the ancient Andean life. Although you only get to see the ruins of the structure, the richness of their culture and the brilliance of the people behind the amazing architecture are very apparent. For instance, you will notice that the water fountains were strategically made of large rocks for durability, and  flat slabs of stones were inserted under the windows which refrigerate stored food. You will also see terraces that were decorated with white stones formed into llamas, animals that played an important role in ancient transportation.

Aside from the majestic ruins of the Incan royal estate, you can also marvel at the beauty of the surrounding snow-capped mountains of Ampay, Panta, and Quishuar. It’s easy to get lost in the mystery of Choquequirao. So don’t forget to look up and witness the marvelous mountains around you.

Love exotic travel as much as us? Why not join us on our next adventures at LadyRedot.com.


mish Hello, I am Mish! I used to work as a travel expert, customer service specialist and a communications trainer in the past. After working for eight years straight since I graduated, I decided to give up my corporate job to focuses on my 4-year old son, works as a freelance writer and a real estate assistant. I am a sun-worshipper, a water baby, and an earth warrior. And oh, I’m tiny but I am an Olympic-level glutton. Let me bring your tummy around the globe! You can reach me at LinkedIn.

 

Adventure Seeking in Bicolandia, Philippines

Bicol, also known as Bicolandia, is a region of the Philippines (specifically region V). It is composed of six provinces with a combined population of six million. So what does region V have to offer for adventure-seeking tourists? Read on.

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Hiking The Majestic Mount Mayon
Mount Mayon, an active volcano in Albay, is world-famous for its perfect conical shape. Anyone can marvel at the majestic beauty of the volcano when in Albay, but only the brave hearts can dare to hike the slopes of the 8,077-foot volcano. If you are one of the adventure-seeking tourists who would like to experience what it is like to be on Mount Mayon, do not forget to secure a permit from the local government first!

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Go caving at Calintaan Cave
Although this activity is all about caving, you have to prepare to get wet for this. Reaching Calintaan Cave involves hopping on a boat (in fact, it’s usually part of an island hopping package) from the the equally picturesque Subic Beach. Getting inside the cave chambers requires the tourists to swim (you can use the life vest provided by the boatmen if you don’t know how to swim). The best part is when you get inside the cave and reach different open and closed chambers where trees tower you. Tip: this activity is only possible when the tide is low so arrange this ahead with your tour guide or ask a local to help you.

Quitinday Hills
If Mount Mayon is too much for you, you can try hiking the hills of Quitinday. This involves a short hike from the ground and the slopes are not that steep, too. Reaching the peak will give you an amazing panorama of what seems to be a never-ending hilly terrain.

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Trek Mount Isarog
Located at the heart of Camarines Sur, this paradise is perfect for mountaineers and non-mountaineers. Along your way, you will meet various flora and fauna, natural pools, waterfalls, and clouds. Yes, clouds! This mountain is the second highest mountain in the region. That means at some point, you will even be higher than the clouds!

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Jump into Malabsay Falls
You can reach Malabsay Falls by trekking Mt. Isarog first. Bathing in its ice cold water is a perfect way to cool yourselves down after an exhausting trek!

Stay at Caramoan like a ‘survivor’
There is no question why Caramoan was chosen by the producers of Survivor for their show. The Caramoan Peninsula is a world-class destination that offers tourists the peace and quiet that they need, aside from the unbelievably marvelous (still an understatement) island beaches and rock formations around the place.

Or stay at Calaguas Island
The Calaguas Group of Islands should be on your list if you like to live a simple island life. You can sleep in tents with no electricity (and sometimes no water), cook your own food (and start your own fire), and connect with the beauty of nature (and not with social media). The beauty of this paradise is just jaw dropping! No crowd… just peace and serenity.

Try wakeboarding in Camarines Sur
Head over to Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC), a park made for wakeboarding, waterskiing, and wakeskating to get your dose of adrenaline rush. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you don’t need to worry as the operators and trained instructors provide instructions to ensure your safety. Ramps, obstacles, beach volleyball area, and a pool are available for the guests.

For the adventurers at heart, let us help you to plan all the necessities while you prep your own gear. For more information, just askus@ladyredot.com


mish
Hello, I am Mish! I used to work as a travel expert, customer service specialist and a communications trainer in the past. After working for eight years straight since I graduated, I decided to give up my corporate job to focuses on my 4-year old son, works as a freelance writer and a real estate assistant. I am a sun-worshipper, a water baby, and an earth warrior. And oh, I’m tiny but I am an Olympic-level glutton. Let me bring your tummy around the globe! You can reach me at LinkedIn.

To The Ends Of The World in Choquequirao

Many people say only the tough ones can make it to Choquequirao in Peru. They may be right. To get there, one has to tackle the 45 kilometer trek (back and forth) and numerous elevation change. It’s definitely not an easy feat, but it is going to be totally worth it.

Brief Background

Choquequirao, Chuqi K’iraw or Chuqik’iraw, which means “cradle of gold,” is a remote Incan site  in the Andes. It is on the Vilcabamba mountain range and is 3,050 meters above the ground.

People call it the “sister of Machu Picchu” because aside from the fact that it is located in Peru, its structure and architecture are also very similar to that of its more famous sibling. Choquequirao, however, spans up to three times the size of Machu Picchu (although only 30% of it is visible) and gets only a handful of visitors daily. (Machu Picchu has more than 2,000 visitors a day while Choquequirao has only had about 5,000 visitors since 2013).

How to Get There

Choquequirao can be reached by hiking or trekking for three days (or even up to more than a week) just outside Cusco. The starting point is the village of Cachora (just 5 hours away from Cusco), and then through the Apuramic Valley, and then to Chiquisca where travelers pitch their tents and spend the night. The next morning, the journey involves uphill trek to Santa Rosa and to Marampata. The travelers will then have to descend to 2000 meters, and then ascend again to 3000 meters (and this pattern repeats all throughout).

Choquequirao is, again, not easily accessible (but the 5,000 travelers who have gone there will surely tell you it will be all worth it). The journey requires high level of fitness and determination. To get around, it is also advised that you get an experienced guide.

P.S If you are wondering how to get back to the starting point, it’s the same way you came: trek up and down!

When to Go

It is best to go anytime between May and October as this season has the driest months of the year. However, still expect occasional rain even during the dry season.

While in Choquequirao

Choquequirao gives you a glimpse of the ancient Andean life. Although you only get to see the ruins of the structure, the richness of their culture and the brilliance of the people behind the amazing architecture are very apparent. For instance, you will notice that the water fountains were strategically made of large rocks for durability, and  flat slabs of stones were inserted under the windows which refrigerate stored food. You will also see terraces that were decorated with white stones formed into llamas, animals that played an important role in ancient transportation.

Aside from the majestic ruins of the Incan royal estate, you can also marvel at the beauty of the surrounding snow-capped mountains of Ampay, Panta, and Quishuar. It’s easy to get lost in the mystery of Choquequirao. So don’t forget to look up and witness the marvelous mountains around you.

Looking for a totally unique location to explore? We specialised in creating unique experience for you. Just askus@ladyredot.com!


 

Hello, I am Mish! I used to work as a travel expert, customer service specialist and a communications trainer in the past. After working for eight years straight since I graduated, I decided to give up my corporate job to focuses on my 4-year old son, works as a freelance writer and a real estate assistant. I am a sun-worshipper, a water baby, and an earth warrior. And oh, I’m tiny but I am an Olympic-level glutton. Let me bring your tummy around the globe! You can reach me at LinkedIn.

 

 

A Glimpse of Portugal’s Azores Islands

The Pacific has Hawaii and the Atlantic the Azores. The Azores are a cluster of 9 volcanic islands located in near the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The territory is under Portugal flag, but they are mostly autonomously governed. These paradise islands to some have been called heaven on earth- lush vegetation, stunning mountains, stunning marine life, golden beaches, and not overpopulated. One of the islands- Santa Maria- is inhabited by a mere 5,500 people. Many of Azores island names relate to nature: Pico for mountain island and Flores for flower island. The major sources of income derive from agriculture, dairy farming, ranching, fishing, and tourism. They are also known for their renounced whale watching, rock climbing, and diving.

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Whale Watching
In the past, this cetacean safe heaven contributes much of its economy from whale hunting. Now the area and marine life are protected and cherished. Throughout the year, this island paradise is visited by common and bottlenose dolphins, and blue and humpback whales. It is a site were marine animals come for rest during their long migration. Tours of each island can be booked, but strict laws prohibit boats from disturbing the animals. Visitors can stop by at one of the many whale museums on land, displaying the culture’s drastic transformation from killing to protecting whale species.

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Hikers
The Azores also has a strong allure for hikers. The mountains here are some of the tallest in the world if you were to measure from the ocean floor. Mount. Pico is the most famous, ranging from 7,713 feet above sea level. It has over 60 trails that usually take up to 3 hours to hike. From those trails, two of the most popular sites are the São Miguel’s Setes Cidades twin lakes and Lagoa do Fogo which takes you to the shore. The island of Flores is a famous hiking site, well-known for the land’s extreme natural beauty.

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Diving
With the frequent whale and dolphin sightings, this would be a great diving site, but the water holds many more surprises. The volcanos not only provide for nutrient water, but the lava creates winding caverns and rock formations for many species to thrive. Exploring below the surface, divers can find Devil Rays, Loggerhead Turtles, Sharks, Slipper Lobsters, Yellow Mouth Barracuda, Tuna and plenty more. Along with this, you can stumble upon one of the decaying shipwrecks. Most of the Islands provide for dive trips and with the visibility as high as 100 ft. and water temp around 70F, it is one experience that would not be easily forgotten.

Join us as we explore the unknown and exotic locations around the globe. We can help to make your life easier by planning your adventures for you. Just askus@ladyredot.com!


josh-may Hello! I’m Josh and I’m a journalism and business student from the U.S. I grew up near Boston but now I’m living in Thailand. In the past I’ve been a ski instructor, waiter, and camp counselor. Now I’ve taken up the pen and want to develop my skills as a writer. I got hooked on traveling last December. I found the microscopic image of my town and realized how much of the earth I hadn’t seen. Since then I’ve had a fire in my belly to see and do as much as I can. My experience here in Thailand has been so great and now I’m eager to share and inspire others to get out, it’s worth it! You can keep in contact with me at LinkedInUpwork or Facebook.