June in Thailand: Erawan Falls

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Another stop on my day tour was the Erawan Falls,  a lovely series of seven waterfalls in a nature reserve.

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The first waterfall had a wide plunge area and was so beautiful that there was a photo shoot there. If you look carefully, you’ll see some reflectors and an unnaturally bright area above the waterfall.

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This was where Jess and David, two friends I met on the tour, had a great idea of taking pictures with the number of each waterfall. So here’s me and number one.

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Number two I felt was far prettier because we could get much closer to the waterfall and also because the cascades were far wider and more “trickly”.

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There were also fish that we were warned nibble at people, so not to swim there. We weren’t that hot yet anyway.

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Nonetheless, we appreciated the signs to be careful while swimming lest we got cramps. That was super kind of them.

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We also liked the friendly Fun With English reminder to beware of a monkey stealing a belonging.

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Next up, number three was a slimmer version of number two and no less pretty.

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We slogged up further to number four, which was then deserted. It was a small waterfall flowing over a smooth rock into a deep plunge pool. We didn’t think much of it and pressed on…

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… past shamanistic sites where locals appeased the spirits of nature by wrapping them with cloth and offering up clothes to them.

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Then waterfall number five, consisting of many shallow pools. We had to clamber over them, getting our shoes wet, to get to the next level of the falls.

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Number six was a bit of a dud as it was hidden behind some fairly thick undergrowth. It was quite hard to get a good shot, but Jess and David were excellent company and that kept the spirits up despite the growing heat of the day.

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Even duds have their own beauty. Number six showed how pristine it could be up here, it was almost as if too many people gave up and headed back after the first five falls. I like how there was this feeling of stumbling across number six for the first time, it was so hidden behind the trees.

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Finally we made it to number seven together, as evidenced by Jess and David below.

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This topmost waterfall had lovely pools to swim in…

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… so after discovering the end of the trail and not being adventurous enough to go off-trail hiking…

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… we contented ourselves in a lovely dip in one of these pools. It was a great way to cool off after the hot and sweaty hike up.

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On our way down, there were lots of people at number four.

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As it turned out, the smooth rock and deep plunge pool were perfect for sliding down. I did it three ways: solo sitting up, solo face down and with a group.

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It was loads of fun splashing about!

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We just had to be careful of wardrobe malfunctions, which thankfully I didn’t have.

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And down we went, back to revisit number one again.

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What a lovely trek!

August in China: Xiamen’s Gulangyu

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I flew from Xian in the central north to Xiamen at the southern coast. The weather immediately became much more humid like at home. Even the people on the streets looked a lot more like Chinese Singaporeans, not surprising seeing as a majority of Chinese Singaporeans are from the Fujian area.

My first stop was at Gulangyu, an islet famous for its pretty colonial architecture. I crossed over in the evening by ferry. Not sure why, but it was free in the evenings. A local guy told me not to bother paying so I paid by admiring the view.

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The dusk view was rather pretty as there was a nice contrast between the colonial houses on Gulangyu…

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… and the bright neon lights of the office buildings opposite in Xiamen itself.

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I had a bit of a problem getting a bed initially as the most popular place on the island was fully booked. There was a bit of a red herring moment when a “friendly local” showed me a dingy room and wanted to charge way over my budget for it. Thankfully I found another less popular but still clean and decent place that fit my budget nicely. Lesson learned: always google accommodation beforehand and get the phone number of the place, it’s not always easy to find a place from its address alone. The locals aren’t always the most informative and building numbers can be jumbled.

The next morning I had a little wander around the island. There was lots of pretty though not particularly memorable architecture…

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… and a glimpse of the most famous site on the island.

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Domestic tourists like to trek up to the top of the rock where on a clear day one can see Taiwan, or more accurately, the Jinmen Islands. It had been especially popular in the past when no one at all from the mainland could set foot on Taiwan. Having lived in Taipei for two years, of course I didn’t want to crowd with the rest of the people and was content to watch from afar.

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After a little sojourn around the islet, I headed for the famous Gulangyu fishballs stuffed with minced pork. It was a little anti-climactic though, the fishball wasn’t bouncy and the meat not very flavourful. I much preferred the Singaporean version. I think us immigrants did far better at improving on the recipe. Oh well.

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