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Kotor, Montenegro: Small Town Charm

Kotor 1Small town charm

If you are like me and can’t stand the crowds and exorbitant prices in Dubrovnik, head over to Kotor. Just 2.5 hours away by bus (104KR/14 euros), Kotor boasts of a beautiful UNESCO World heritage walled city that rivals that of its Northern neighbours. I was just here for a day while on my way to Bosnia, and I quickly fell in love with the stunning scenery and the small town charm.

Kotor 2

IMG_5283 The old town is surrounded by mountains

It was only rather recently that Montenegro declared independence from Serbia to became an independent country in 2006. Historically, Montenegro was a republic within the former Yugoslavia. The fall of Yugoslavia saw Montenegro joined Serbia to form the nation “Serbia and Montenegro”.

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IMG_5252Hanging brooms. Can someone explain the significance behind this?

Kotor 4The lack of tourists helps Kotor retain its charm

IMG_5256Not sure what they were filming, but these kids look so adorable while filming

As I was leaving the next morning, I only had the night to explore the old city. I decided to go climb the Fortifications (3 euros), which the guy at the hostel guaranteed an awesome view of the town and the bay of Kotor. Exercise + awesome view, who could resist?

While buying my ticket, the ticket-seller informed me that the fortress would be closing at 7pm, which gave me about an hour and a half to get myself up to the top. Along the way I met a huge group of backpackers who happened to be staying at the same hostel. I quickly inserted myself into their group; traveling solo can be so easy sometimes. After climbing about 1350 steps (no I wasn’t counting, I did a Google search on this), I finally got to the top of the fortress. And the views were rewarding.

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IMG_5267Steep steps up the Fortress. These were the “good” steps.

IMG_5279The viewpoint

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Kotor 5Views of the Old Town at night

I wish I had more time to explore more of the town and even other parts of Montenegro. I would have loved getting to know the locals, go on a boat trip on the bay of Kotor or join the hostel’s white-water rafting tour. But alas, this traveler had to leave. I’ll be back, Montenegro.

 

Malaysia: Long Distance Cycling To Desaru

Over the long Easter weekend, my colleague and I decided to cycle to Desaru and back. Going on a long distance cycling trip has always been a traveling dream of mine, so when she brought up the idea of cycling to Desaru, I could not wait to get going.

The day before the trip I was starting to fall ill and I was worried I would not be able to make the trip, much less survive it. Thankfully, an immense dosage of paracetamol and tons of water intake gave me back the strength and health I needed.

Phase One: Ferry from Singapore to Pengerang

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I did some research before we left, and found out that there was a bumboat service from Singapore’s Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Malaysia’s Pengerang ferry terminal. The boat took 75 minutes and costs S$11, and sitting inside the bumboat wasn’t quite as stuffy as the other blogs made it out to be. The boat was a rickety wooden boat, not unlike the boats often seen in other parts of Southeast Asia. A glimpse of what the old Singapore was like… I was liking the journey so far.

Phase Two: Taxi from Pengerang ferry terminal to Sungai Rengit
Sungai Rengit is a really small town that lies on the route between the Pengerang ferry terminal and Desaru. While most people come to Sungai Rengit for the seafood, we were here to rent our bicycles from the only bike shop in town. At RM18 a day for bicycle rental, it was hell of a lot cheaper than renting bicycles from Singapore’s Changi Village and bringing them on the bumboat. The bicycles here are not made for long distance cycling, but they suffice if you are just cycling to Desaru and back.

Phase Three: Cycling on Highway 90 towards Desaru
The distance from Sungai Rengit to Desaru is about 32km each way, which is considered an easy ride for the seasoned cyclists. I, however, was feeling slightly daunted by the distance, no thanks to the memories of cycling 50km uphill around Dongqian Lake in Ningbo, China back in October 2013.

The first two thirds of the journey was an easy cycle on flat ground, and we cycled by plantations after plantations, followed by vast land of nothingness. The scary part was trying to cycle safely next to passing trucks and not get knock over by them, but the nicest part of long distance cycling is the camaraderie between cyclists. We would come across other groups of cyclists, presumably from Singapore as well, and everyone would wave or say hi.

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Phase Four: It’s An Uphill Battle
The last one third of the journey was the hardest. We were constantly cycling uphill then downhill, and the afternoon sun was beating down on us. We were exhausted and had to resort to pushing our bikes on the uphills.

Now imagine our glee when we finally saw the sign for Desaru! We rolled into our resort, checked in, then hung out at the beach while we waited for another colleague and her friends to check in and have dinner together. That night’s dinner was probably the best meal I have ever had – or maybe that was just my famished and tired body deceiving me.

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Phase Five: And back again we go
The next morning we had to cycle back to Sungai Rengit. I’m not gonna lie – I was dreading the ride back. I couldn’t imagine putting myself through another 10km of uphill cycling in the scorching afternoon sun. But it had to be done, and so off we went.

The journey back wasn’t as smooth as the journey to Desaru. So used to traveling on my own, I forgot to look back and check the location of my colleague. I only realized she wasn’t close by when a Malaysian family pulled me over to tell me to stick close to my friend because she might get kidnapped or something bad might happen to her. I stopped by the roadside and waited for my colleague to catch up, and when she finally pulled up next to me, I saw her tearing and that was when she recounted her incident with a touchy Malaysian man on a motorbike. I was thankful that nothing else happened to her, but it was a somber reminder that we had to stick close to each other.

Not soon after that, my bicycle chain came off and I started panicking. My colleague had already cycled off and I have no knowledge on bicycle repair. After a while of fixing and loosening the gear, the chain finally started moving again. Thank god. I had another 20 plus kilometers to go and I had no intention on walking all the way to Sungai Rengit.

The rest of the journey went by rather uneventful, but boy was I glad to see the bicycle shop. 75km in two days – I’m proud of myself for accomplishing yet another new experience this year. I think this might be the start of a new way of traveling for me. Maybe not in the scorching heat of Southeast Asia, but I could definitely see myself cycling across Europe.

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My rented bike and the sign that brought us hope.