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Sunrise Jungle Trekking at Rasa Ria Reserve by Shangri-La

Throughout the month of June, the boyfriend and I decided to do "Cuti-Cuti Sabah" as our weekend getaway. This is what happen when you can't travel internationally, you travel locally. Since there are handful of local hotels and tours are doing promo now, why don't we take this opportunity to do staycations and at the same time, to help to boost the local tourism industry, right?

We kick-off our Cuti-Cuti Sabah plan in the early week of June with jungle trekking at Rasa Ria Reserve. This nature reserve is located within the prestigious Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, a 5-star resort situated in a colourful town of Tuaran, which is almost an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. Because it's protected area, therefore it opens to the in-house guests only with an additional charge of RM20 per guest. So if you happen to stay in this resort, do take this opportunity to explore the Rasa Ria Reserve.

Rasa Ria Reserve by Shangri-La 2

In collaboration with the State Wildlife Department of Sabah, there are varieties of new and enhanced recreational activities in order for the guests to get closer to the nature, learn more about exotic plants and indigenous wildlife. Guests can choose activities such as bird watching, jungle walk for sunrise, adventurous night walk and even breakfast with a view at the peak. Interesting, right? Want to know more about their recreational activities, you can check out more here.

Rasa Ria Reserve by Shangri-La 4

We assembled as early as 5.30 am at the lobby, before picked up by the hotel staff with the electric golf cart to the discovery centre. At the discovery centre, we were greeted by two rangers where they will give us briefing before starting the jungle trekking. As the sun has yet to rise and because it was slightly dark, each of us were given a mini torch light. And you know what, according to the ranger, we're the first group to do the jungle trekking ever since MCO implemented in the mid of March.

Rasa Ria Reserve by Shangri-La 3

Rasa Ria Reserve by Shangri-La 5

And because it was raining earlier, hence there were certain trails which were quick slippery while we're walking through this tropical jungle. The trail from beginning to the lookout point wasn't that long - it's approximately 4.8km long and within 40 minutes, all of us had finally arrived the peak point. We managed to reach at the lookout point few minutes before the sunrise took place. Though the weather wasn't clear as pairing with picturesque scenery. Don't you think this view is breath-taking?

Rasa Ria Reserve by Shangri-La 6

Throughout our jungle trekking, there were no any local wildlife in sight, except for squirrel. I think mainly due to MCO where no guests were allowed to come and visit, hence the animals must be roaming somewhere else. I think so lah! As much as I love to encounter these animals where they can roam freely across the reserve, I did pray hardly that I won't bump into snakes cause that is one of the things I fear the most. I can't imagine if I stumble upon one, probably I will immediately fainted on the spot. I'm not kidding. 

If you are planning to stay in Shangri-la Rasa Ria and interested to sign up for this sunrise jungle trekking, do remember to bring along comfortable walking shoes, trousers and the most important one, the mosquito repellent cause there are plenty of mosquitoes waiting to have their meals. 

By the way, Shangri-la Rasa Ria is currently having great deal for your ideal and relax staycation. Hurry up and book with them before the deal end. 

Last but not least since you are in the town of Tuaran, don't forget to try its fried "Tuaran Noodle" which is well-known among the local. It's one of the food you must try when visiting Sabah, particularly Kota Kinabalu. It's best to serve with lihing (the Kadazan-Penampang native's rice wine).

Tuaran Mee
Tuaran Mee - one of the most popular noodles in Sabah. Majority the local would recommend the Lok Kyun Restaurant of Tuaran town.
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Summary of My 22D19N Balkans Travelogue (2019) Covering Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania & Montenegro

Kota Kinabalu → Singapore
Singapore → Istanbul → Bucharest
Bucharest → Brasov + Bran
Brasov + Sinaia
Brasov + Sighisoara
Brasov → Bucharest → Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo → Sofia
Sofia → Skopje
Skopje + Ohrid
Skopje → Pristina
Pristina + Prizren
Pristina → Tirana
Tirana + Berat
Tirana → Kotor
Kotor → Podgorica
Podgorica → Istanbul
Istanbul → Singapore
Singapore → Kota Kinabalu

This is my second time flying with this prestigious and award-winning airlines? Why I chosen this airlines? One of the main reasons is because it's connecting the flight between Istanbul and Kota Kinabalu with transit in Singapore and the airfare was pretty affordable. 

2019 Singapore Airlines Flight

Visa is not required for Malaysian passport holders to visit all these 6 countries. However, this will change from 2021 onwards. Malaysians will need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver, which will be obtainable through the online application system. For more info, you can check out here.

As for currency exchange:
  • Only Kosovo and Montenegro are using Euro (€)
  • Romania - National currency is leu (€1 = 4.60 leu). I exchanged at Bucharest Airport and Bucharest Old Town (of course I would recommend the latter)
  • Bulgaria - National currency is lev (€1 = 1.91 lev). I withdraw some from Veliko Tarnovo train station and exchanged the rest in Sofia
  • Macedonia - It's known as denar (€1 = MKD61.40). I exchanged denar at the Old Bazaar of Skopje.
  • Albania - It's national currency is lek (€1 = 123 lek). I went and exchanged at the shop opposite of my hostel.


A handful of fridge magnets I bought

Chocolates. It's funny I don't really into chocolates but then, I love to buy chocolate as souvenirs to friends and family.
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Istanbul Tulip Festival 2019

<< Previous Post: Podgorica, Montenegro <<

Istanbul, aku datang lagi! (it means "Istanbul, here I come again" in Malay language)

To be precise, I've been to Istanbul like 4 times - enter and exit for my trip to Bosnia and Croatia in 2018 and also, for this leg of my trip. It's funny how I'm only focusing on Istanbul but not the rest of Turkey cause I have promised my friends to wait for them. Not sure when and whether we able to accomplish this wishlist or not, but I believe someday we will. Fingers crossed!

2019 Turkish Airlines Podgorica to Istanbul Flight
#1: Flying with Turkish Airlines for the second time

From Podgorica of Montenegro, I booked my flight with Turkish Airlines to Istanbul. There are not many options for this route and due to this, the fare is relatively expensive. One-way cost me €143 (approx. to RM662) and this is not my maiden experience flying with them. Even for my previous trip from Zagreb of Croatia, I also booked the exactly same airlines cause there's the one and only option I had. Exiting Istanbul to other parts of Europe is pretty cheap, but entering makes my bank bleed so badly. 

2019 Turkish Airlines
#2: Their flight safety video is super cool! Featured those characters from 'The Lego Movie'

2019 Turkish Airlines In-Flight Meal
#3: At least the airfare is including in-flight meal and baggage allowance.

2019 Turkey Istanbul New Airport

2019 Turkey Istanbul Havaist Bus to Taksim
#5: The ideal way to get to the city centre from Istanbul Airport is by taking Havaist bus

Though Istanbul might no longer a stranger place for me, but because they moved to the new airport and no longer operated at Atuturk Airport, it's time for me to crack my head once again in order to get to the city center. The newly operated airport is located in the Arnavutköy district, which is on the European side of Istanbul. Thankfully, it's fairly easy to get to the city by using Istanbulkart.

Catch Havaist bus at the level (-2) of the airport. Don't worry if you don't have any Istanbulkart with you cause there is a booth for you to purchase or top-up your look-alike "Touch N Go" card. As for the bus fare, it's vary according to your destination. The most popular stops like Taksim and Sultanahmet Square costs 18 lira per trip.

2019 Turkey Istanbul Bunk Hostel
#6: Bunk Hostel in Taksim area of Istanbul

I decided to book other accommodation instead of staying the same place I have stayed before in Istanbul. It's indeed last minute booking as I was indecisive of which area should I stay - whether Taksim or Sultahnamet Square since these two areas are popular among the travellers. At the end, I went for Taksim and I booked this chic and new hostel - the Bunk Hostel. The location of this hostel is 700m from Taksim Square and 800m from Taksim Metro Station. If you are taking Havaist bus from Istanbul New Airport, it will stop exactly at the same place as the one from the former airport - situated behind Point Hotel Taksim.

Bunk Hostel
Date Stayed: 25 April - 26 April 2020
Room Rate: €17.86 (approx. to RM83) for a bed in 6-bed female dormitory room with private bathroom

One of the things I love about this hostel is that it has a large rooftop terrace overlooking the city and I was indeed having a great time sitting here doing nothing but just enjoying the view. Secondly, they served free breakfast for all the in-house guests. The only downside of this hostel is that the dorm is significantly compact and small. I even had issue of climbing up to my bed due to the limited of space.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is not my first time to Istanbul and I've been few places like Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia and bazaars. You can check out my post here.

As for this round, I narrow down my visit to two famous tourist attractions only, which are the Galata Tower and Sultanahmet Square because I was kinda exhausted and worn-out from the long travelling period.

Galata Kulesi (Galata Tower)
Previously used as a watchtower to prevent enemy ships from entering the harbour, now it has becomes one of the eye-catching landmark of Istanbul. However, I didn't make my way up cause the line was extremely long and I'm the type that dislike wasting my time to queue. I think it's best to arrive this place in the early morning to beat the crowd.

2019 Turkey Istanbul Galata Tower
#7: Galata Tower

2019 Turkey Istanbul Postcards

2019 Turkey Istanbul Postcards & Magnets

Istanbul Tulip Festival at Sultanahmet Square
Seriously, I never expect and specially plan for this one. I wasn't aware of the tulip festival until I reach Sultanahment Square. The reason I went there just to kill my time but unexpectedly, I was greeted by thousands, or even millions of colorful tulips. Can't believe that previously I always saw this annual event on social media but now, luck was on my side where I got to see and experience right in front of me.

2019 Turkey Istanbul Hagia Sophia
#10: What a sunny day at Sultanahmet Square

#11: Istanbul Tulip Festival - an annual event which held each April, except for this year due to the pandemic situation.

2019 Turkey Istanbul Tulip Festival 2
#12: My favourite shot

2019 Turkey Istanbul Tulip Festival 3
#13: It's free for public and you don't have to pay any entrance fee. Just that there's a barrier between the tulips to avoid the public from step on it. 

Staying in Istanbul for less than 24 hours, now it's time to kiss goodbye to this beautiful and amazing city. Just like how I got to the city centre from the airport, I used the exact same way which is by catching the Havaist bus that can be found behind Point Hotel Taksim. The bus departs to the airport is quite frequently, therefore you don't have to bother of buying the bus tickets in advance. Make sure that you are heading to the correct airport cause Istanbul has two different airports - Istanbul New Airport and Sabiha Gokcen Airport. 

2019 Turkey Istanbul Starbucks Mugs
#14: Anyone collect Starbucks mug?

Easy To Love, Hard To Say Goodbye
#15: Absolutely agree with this quote - "Easy to Love, Hard to say Goodbye"

2019 Singapore Airlines Istanbul to Singapore
#16: Flying back to Singapore with Singapore Airlines

And this concludes the end of my 3rd Europe Solo travelogue. Pop champagne! If I were to be more hardworking, actually I can complete this whole series of travelogue at least by end of May (which is last month). But you know what happen when procrastinating has taken over me. Hopefully after this I can motivate myself to update my blog more frequently cause I have tons of backlog. 
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Podgorica, Montenegro

<< Previous Post: The Island Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rock) & Bay of Kotor Cruise <<
Kotor is such an amazing place until it's hard for me to leave this town eventhough I was there for 4 days and 3 nights. With a heavy heart, I need to move on to my final destination which is Podgorica before flying back to Istanbul. Besides being the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica is also the country's largest city.

2019 Montenegro Kotor Bus Schedule
#1: Bus schedule from Kotor to Podgorica

Bus from Kotor to Podgorica departs almost every hourly. Hence, you don't have to worry about purchasing the bus ticket in advance. The bus ticket for a single ride costs €7 and if you have luggage with you, there will be an additional charge of €1 applied.

I left Kotor town around noon time and after nearly 2 hours, I have arrived Podgorica. From the bus station, it takes about 10 minutes walk to the city center as well as my hostel.

2019 Montenegro Hostel B&B Podgorica

Montenegro Hostel Podgorica
Date Stayed: 24 April - 24 April 2019 (1 night)
Room Rate: €8.00 for a bunk bed in mixed dormitory room for 1 night (Booked from Booking.com)

Right after I check-in into my hostel and quickly left my backpack, it's time to explore the small and tiny capital city of Montenegro. I didn't bother to take any public transportation cause the city is relatively compact in size and the ideal way to travel around is on foot. Well as usual, I always rely on the Google Map to navigate around the city. 

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Clock Tower (Sahat Kula)
#3: Clock Tower (Sahat Kula) - One of the very few Ottoman landmarks that survived the bombing of Podgorica in World War II

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Hercegovacka Pedestrian Street 1
#4: City public park

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Hercegovacka Pedestrian Street 2
#5: Hercegovačka Pedestrian Street - a shopping street but I don't find any interesting things here

#6: Millennium Most - Newly built bridge over the Moraca river

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Monument
#7: Vladimir Vysotsky Monument - A statue of the famous Russian singer given by the Russians

2019 Montenegro Podgorica

After my small little exploration around the city, I found that the city is tend to be unattractive and tiresome. Just when I thought Bucharest, the capital city of Romania is pretty boring and dull, I can conclude that Podgorica is top on the list to be the most unattractive city in Europe. No surprise many travellers skip this city because the city was rebuilt as a modern planned city and by no means a principal sightseeing destination. As for me, I only spent less than 15 hours in this city and I can't wait to leave on the next day. Sorry Podgorica - you are not my typical eye candy. 

Because I need to catch my flight back to Istanbul, Podgorica is the only airport serves that particular route. And in order to get to Podgorica Airport is by taking taxi as my flight to Istanbul was quite early. There is not much information about the public transportation heading to the airport but I don't want to take any risk of missing flight, hence I opted for taxi. One way taxi ride costs me €7 which I found it's affordable and reasonable. 

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Taxi to Airport
#9: This is my first time to ride taxi alone in Europe

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Airport
#10: Podgorica Airport

2019 Montenegro Podgorica Leave Only Footprints Behind
#11: Leave only footprints behind

My 3rd Solo Europe travelogue is almost coming to an end. I thought I can finish this travelogue at least end of May but again, I was too procrastinating. I really hope I can quickly finish this one cause there are plenty of things I like to blog and share here. Like my trip to New Zealand, Hanoi, Sweden, Norway, USA, Iran, Hokkaido and more. DT, please don't be lazy again!

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The Island Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rock) & Bay of Kotor Cruise

<< Previous Post: Hiking San Giovanni Fort of Kotor, Montenegro << 

Right after we descended from Kotor Fortress (San Giovanni Fort), we went back to our hostel to have a short break before continue without our next activity which is the Bay of Kotor cruise. We booked this  tour from our hostel and it costs €30 for 3 hours cruise. It wasn't in my plan at the first place but because my newly met acquaintance was interested to join this cruise and I have too many extra time to kill, then why not go for it right? 

2019 Montenegro Bay of Kotor Cruise 01
#1: Bay of Kotor cruise which we booked from Pupa Hostel

There are two different tours in case you are interested to join;
  1. Blue Cave Tour which takes about 3 hours - €30 (this is the one I joined). Three departures time only (9am, 12pm and 3pm)
  2. Perast Tour which takes about 1.5 hours - €15. Departs every 2 hour.
At the beginning of our cruise, the weather was pretty nice and the sun was shining bright. The tour began from Port of Kotor, and the boat operator picked us up right in front of our hostel. Remember in one of my previous post, my hostel in Kotor is exactly facing the seafront of Kotor and we didn't have to walk so far away to get into the speaed boat. 

Our first pit stop is the The Island Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks). This is an artificial island which built by the seaman from both Kotor and Perast town over 500 years ago. According to a legend, the local seamen spotted an image of the Virgin Mary on the rock in the sea. Upon returning from each successful voyage, they laid a rock in the Bay. Over time, the man-made island gradually emerged from the sea and soon, they built a tiny Orthodox chapel on the site.

2019 Montenegro Kotor Our Lady of the Rocks 01
#2: Our first pit stop - The Island Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks)

2019 Montenegro Kotor Our Lady of the Rocks 02
#3: A Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks was built on the man-made island 

#4: We're given 20 minutes to get off from the speed boat for venturing around the island

2019 Montenegro Kotor Our Lady of the Rocks 04
#5: There is another island behind me, the Island Sveti Djordje (Island of The Dead Captains) but we didn't have the chance to visit the island. 

2019 Montenegro Perast Town
#6: A panoramic view of Perast Town 

Perast Town is an old town located few kilometres northwest of Kotor. It takes almost half an hour from Kotor via the local public bus. Actually Perast is more nearer to get to the islands, rather than from Kotor. In case you have additional day and time, you can dropby at Perast town and then, taxi boats to get to the islands. 

2019 Montenegro Bay of Kotor Submarine Tunnel
#7: Later on, we were brought to one of the submarine tunnel which built during the World War 2 

Right after our visit to the submarine tunnel, the boat operator did ask whether do we want to proceed or not for the next destination because the sea was getting rough and the waves were indeed huge. Being us who don't have these two words of "afraid" and "scare" in our dictionary, all of us agreed to continue with our final stop despite the rough conditions. The cruise was absolutely bumpy and there were few times where our butt skipped off from the seat, but still we insist to stay strong by holding the handrail until the end. 

2019 Montenegro Bay of Kotor Blue Cave
#8: Blue cave - this is where we insisted to continue our trip despite the rough conditions 

The blue cave, or locally known as Blue Grotto is one of the things you must see when taking the boat trip. Though it's nearly 45 minutes boat ride, we never regret of getting here. Feeling so magical when seeing the cave was shining with neon-blue light which grow from the surface of the water. Eventually we're allowed to swim around but because of the adverse weather, we're not allowed to do so. 

2019 Montenegro Bay of Kotor Mamula Island
#9: Mamula Fortress from far. Another man-made island built during Austrian-Hungarian period

All of us were really having a good time cruising around Bay of Kotor where we got to see, learn and experience several new things. It's pleasant and wonderful experience afterall, eventhough we encountered a non-stop bumpy ride towards the end of the trip. I would recommend you to go for this Bay of Kotor cruise if you have extra of time in Kotor.  
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