Big Tree @ Gunung Lambak

The first time I went to Gunung Lambak was 2 years ago. Back then I thought it was a fairly easy hike/climb. In fact of all the mountains that I climbed in Malaysia, I rate this the easiest until Saturday’s climb. 2 years ago when I went there, I didn’t go to the Big Tree. I was told it was tough but people tend to exaggerate the toughness so I took that with a pinch of salt. 

Gunung Lambak can be divided into 3 parts – from the foot of the mountain where the waterpark is to the summit with the telecom station and from there to the Big Tree and return to the summit and lastly a relatively easier hike from the summit to the 2nd peak or false summit before descending to the foot of the mountain.

There is 2 ways to go up to the summit at this location where there is a sort of tea house manned by the nearby residents. The last time I came, we took the so called “difficult” route.  This time round, we were a bit lazy and took the easier route which is just next to the board.

Of course, there is always a catch and the easier route was a few hundred metres longer! But true to what they said, it was indeed much easier to tackle this portion notwithstanding 1 small part where we have to clamber up some steep trails.

Once we reached the summit, we decided to head down to the Big Tree. I didn’t go there the last time round so this time I followed the rest. I should have stayed with 2 smart ladies who wisely decided to wait for the rest of the group at the summit. It was a long 1.5 km walk down to the big tree. A very steep walk where thankfully if not for the rope that some kind soul had put up along the trail, I will probably be sliding down  all the way to the Big Tree. It was a long painful 55 minutes of slow walk down with me sliding on my bum twice. And for all the hard work, all we got was this big tree which one can easily find in say our Singapore Botanic Garden!

The worst part of this? The long climb back up. This has gonna be the most torturous 1.5 km I ever did with my calves and quads screaming in agony with every upward flight. Unlike other mountain, this was one continuous climb up with just a sort 20 metres or so of flat trail. But we did surprise ourselves by doing it 10 minutes faster than the descent!

Back at the summit I had my lunch there. There wasn’t much of a view up there though. Blocked by all the trees. Pity.

We descend with one group opting to go to the false summit. Me? I have enough for one day and opted to go down straight. And I am happy we made that decision because we were rewarded with sightings of the Dusky Leaf Langurs and the Pig Tailed Macaque! This is the first time I seen a Pig Tailed Macaque and it was a bittersweet experience between the pair of them were spotted around the water park area and the ice cream vendor was feeding it with ice cream!

Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin

I confess I have no idea there was such a place at Pulau Ubin. I only saw it when I went to shoot the Pesta Ubin Run recently. And I knew I have to come back to take a closer look at it.  Soback on Pulau Ubin over the weekend for a full day trek, we made a pit stop here to check out the scene. 

And my golly, there were indeed butterfly galore. Just walking alongside it, I could see a few butts flying –  a couple of Jeezebul and some Yellows. I knew I must explore the place in depth. But the hike training has to take priority and after just about half an hour of looking at the many different butterfly flying around, I have to move on with just 3 photo of butterfly out of the so many there. One Peacock Pansy, a Glassy Tiger and an unidentified butterfly or maybe moth.

Peacock Pansy

Blue Glassy Tiger

Unidentified Butterfly/moth

I consoled myself that earlier on right at the beginning of the day, I had got a photo of the beautiful Common Birdwing at the Assembly Area.

Common Birdwing

And there was bound to be other butterfly around although I swear I am so gonna come back to Butterfly Hill again just for the butts. 

Anyway, at the fruit farm, I managed to shoot a beautiful Lascar. Not too sure whether it is a Common or Malayan Lascar though.

Lascar

There was also a pair of Glassy Tiger flying around the same plant

Dark Glassy Tiger

On the way in to and out of Chek Jawa, there were a few butts flying around despite it being almost 4 pm. Despite being pressed for time, managed to get a photo of a Knight. Too bad the angle isn’t too good. It was too skittish and it didn’t help that there were many cyclists whizzing through and every time one of them pass by, the butterfly will take off.

Knight

I shall return and the next time it will only be butterfly time!

 

Pulau Ubin

It been some time since I last visited Pulau Ubin and then suddenly in the space of 2 months, I been there 3 times. Each time I am struck by its wild beauty and marvel that such a rustic place can be reached from bustling busy Singapore city with just a 10 minutes ferry ride.

The same run down little shop houses with the eateries and bicycle rentals are still there. The wayang stage is still there and nothing much seems to have changed. Time seems to have come to a stand still there which is good. Hopefully no Sentosa twin ever.

On my latest visits, we noticed 2 places that we have never seen or noticed. Butterfly Hill where there are apparently more than 140 species of butterfly spotted.

More of that in a later post though.

The numerous quarries are still there and together with view of the surrounding sea postcard like backdrop of the island.

Former Ubin Resort (now part of Learning Lab)

Fish Pond

Pekan Quarry

Chek Jawa is still a very much beloved part of the island with its picturesque jetty and mangrove boardwalk.

And we stumbled upon this little hill

At the summit which is only probably about 50 metres above sea level, one get a very beautiful view of the Ubin quarry on one side and the Pasir Ris town on the other.

View from top of Puaka Hill

View from top of Puaka Hill

Other places that have withstood the test of time includes the German Girl Shrine(which seem to have been upgraded in fact)

German Girl Shrine

and this very iconic drink stall which is on every visitor’s list of must take photo

We went to the Ketam Mountain Bike park by foot and not by bike and was rewarded with beautiful view of the Ketam Island and more view of Pasir Ris town.

Ketam Island

We followed a trail to a temple which looks like a copy cat of a Tibetan temple which colourful flags everywhere.

We were training for an upcoming hike and birding and butterflying at the same time so we took a fair bit of time to cover probably 2/3 of the hill. Good excuse to come back another time.

Windsor Nature Park

Singapore opens another “nature” park – the Windsor Nature Park which is actually what to me used to me part of the MacRitchie Reservoir entering from the Venus Road side. And naturally knowing how authorities’ fixation on clean and neat, what used to be a nice semi-wild trail is now very sadly sanitised.

Like this broadwalk here. Previously it was just a nice trail with railings at the side to prevent people from encroaching into one of the few remaining natural stream left in Singapore. Now there is this nice broadwalk. Oh well, I suppose if it helps to keep the people from trampling all over.

The stream that goes into the forest. When the kids were younger and I was not into this nature protection thingy, we came here to catch the little longkang fish like guppy, mosquitoes fish, cichlids and the occasional barbs. Nowadays, activities like that are forbidden and carry a heavy fine which is good as we need to protect the little bit of nature that we have left although I must said most of the fishes there nowadays are not “local”. 

In addition to the broadwalk from the Venus Road carpark where there is now a Visitor Centre and a toilet, there is another new broadwalk, the Drongo Trail running almost parallel with the old trail adjacent to the SICC road. This broadwalk is above ground level and allow visitors to see at least the mid level of the trees and its inhabitants. This will leads to MacRitchie Reservoir.

From Venus Road entrance, there is another trail called Venus Walk but this is a cemented path and leads to the Windsor housing estate. It does look very nice though and very “runnable” hahaha.

Fortunately, my favourite part of this trail which is now officially known as Venus Loop has been left largely untouched and there is still this beautiful canopy tunnel as well as the winding trails for me to run through.

Overall I must admit Nparks have done a good job of striking a nice balance between keeping the place as natural as possible and yet protecting the environment. The expected popular area have been reinforced with the broadwalk and most of the trees and plants appear to be left untouched.

Never Stop Exploring Tanjong Tuan, Port Dickson

We reached Tanjung Tuan late and the Raptor flypast had largely gone by for the day. So our group leader decided to bring us for a short “easy” hike through the Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve.

Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve is a small area of protected forest in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. Like all Malaysian rainforest, it is dense with lots of undergrowth.

We started off somewhere at the top near the light house. Our objective was the beach and a village somewhere below. Going through the trail was not difficult although the trails didn’t appear very well trodden. What made it slightly more challenging for me was that I was still holding on to my 3.5 kg of camera and lens in the hand. I wanted to dismantle them and put them away but the thought that I may spot some birds or animals kept me from doing so. So I trekked slowly and carefully to make sure that I don’t hit the lens against a tree or a rock.

Although the trail was short, there was many side trails and with the group getting separated frequently, there were much back tracking. And at some place, there was short sharp drop which with my hand full I had to negotiate very carefully. In the end I did slipped once and allowed my body to take the impact rather than use my hands to cushion the fall rather than risk dropping the camera!

Eventually we came to a small little beach. Clean water but dirty sands.

Then we made our way up and this time the going was much easier as there were wooden and concrete steps to walk on. That lead us back to the main road where we headed back to our apartment while some of the others hopeful went back to the light house to see whether they can spot any raptor.

Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Just like in Singapore, getting to the islands of HK is fairly easy. Just go to the Ferry Pier at Central and take a short ferry ride to any of the island, in our case Lamma Island. A short 45 minutes ferry ride and we reached the pier at Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island. From there, it was a long 2 hours walk to our guesthouse at Luk Chau Tuen but luckily for us, our host came to pick us up in his rubber dinghy. Did I mention rubber dingy?

The rubber dinghy that took us to and from our apartment to the pier

When I first saw it, I could see ourselves getting totally soaked on our way there. Luckily, our host Christian drove very slowly and not only did we not get soaked, we saw a lot of birds especially the Black Kites. I was all so excited and out came the camera although as expected, none of the photos came out well what with the movement of the boat and the choppy water.

That our apartment at the end.

Our place at Luk Chau Tsuen reminds me of one of those places in those 90s Hong Kong vampire movie where the vampires run amok on the island. Luk Chau Tsuen is more like an abandoned village next to the sea and the buildings look so dilapidated, ours included. But fortunately, our host had turned his place into a nice cosy place despite it being quite run down. 

Next morning we started our exploration of Lamma Island. The island itself is not very big and only 7 km in length. There are 2 villages with 2 pier at each end of the island. Unfortunately we were right smacked somewhere in the centre and had to walk about 2 km to Yung Shun Wan village for our breakfast. The walk was fairly easy as there is a proper concrete path that leads to both village.

Just a short walk up the hill and we got a gorgeous view of Aberdeen across the sea.

And just further up ahead we saw the first landmark of the island, the Lamma Wind Turbines. 

There is another impressive view of the sea and beyong from this high point.

Going closer to Yung Shue Wan, we passed by this apparently famous tau huay (bean curd) place but it was too early and not opened yet. We did stopped to eat on our way to Sok Kwu Wan but I wasn’t terribly impressed by it though. What got us more excited was this place

Yes this is the place where the famous Fatt Kor, actor Chow Yun Fat grew up. The 2nd house in the photo! 

And finally after many stops for photos and almost 1 hour later, we reached Yung Shuw Wan where we had our breakfast and the ladies did some shopping for groceries!

From here, we have to walk the whole 7 km to Sok Kwu Wan. The walk was pleasant enough although it involves many climbs. But the view was fantastic and there was beaches and many many birds to see that it took us longer than expected.

Hung Shing Ye Bay

We stopped for a while to enjoy the breeze at the beach. There were proper toilet facilities here and small eateries. It was all so pleasant. Unfortunately, the view was marred by this power plant which sticks out like a sore thumb!

The power plant is visible from most high ground unfortunately

After this we started going up and up and got more and more great views

We didn’t have to go up this peak but we did, later on our way back to our apartment.

After a long long walk, we finally reached the village of Sok Kwu Wan. The first thing that caught my eye is this graffiti of this pig on one of the houses.

The star tourist attraction of Lamma Island is this Tin Hau Temple. 

We didn’t go in though cos we were real hungry by then and there were seafood restaurants galore here. After lunch, we had to walk all the way back to our apartment. This time, we took a detour and went up the peak.

We had a glorious view of the Lamma Island bay from up high. 

By the time we got back to our apartment, we had walked from 8 am till 6 pm criss-crossing the island and then back tracking to our place covering at least 12 km. But with great weather, beautiful scenery and for me, sighting of many birds, it was a great great adventure, well worth the walk. And there was still the sun rise to look forward to the next morning although we did wake up a bit too late to catch the sun rise in full!

Because we stayed on the island, we had to walk back to our place which took extra time. Generally, it would have been better to just do a day trip – take a ferry over to either one of the pier and walk to the other end and take the ferry from the other pier back to mainland.