Page 1

MCI (P) 100/05/2014 MAR-APR 2015 Free

ISSUE 62

Eco Issue

© Chris McLennan

New Zealand | Oman | India


62

15

S T N E T N O C

20 R P A R MA

26

13 17

24

20

S

RES U T A E F > ert the Des f Queen o g Oman

13 Explorin

Green Seeing re in Kerala 17 Adventu entures v d A t c Perfe South Island Picture d’s

20 New Zealan

l Island Eventfu s in Penang 24 Activitie ks Your Kic r o F g n Biki ute 66

26 Cycling Ro

LAR U G E R >

R GUIDE A E G 06 S VEL TIP A R T 08 S VEL NEW A R T L 22 K: NEPA A E R B T SHOR

25

+ S T R O P UDE >S R ALTIT

ts FO G in Spor a N t I n N I u A o TR n for M paratio Pre

> PLUSSPECIAL OMAN

For a list of our distribution outlets, visit www.sportsandtravelonline.com Sports + Travel Singapore is a publication of Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd (Singapore). All articles published are in good faith and based on bona fide information available to The Publisher at the time of press. The Publisher accepts no responsibility other than that stipulated by law. The Publisher also accepts no responsibilty for unsolicited manuscripts, transparencies or other materials. All rights are reserved and no part of this publication may be reproduced in part or full without the previous written permission of The Publisher. Neither can any part be stored or recorded, by any means. The opinions expressed in The Publication are those of the contributors and not necessarily endorsed by The Publisher. This publication and the name are owned solely by Lennox and Ooi Media Pte Ltd, 242A River Valley Road, Singapore 238299. Email: enquiry@sportsandtravelonline. com. Sports + Travel Singapore is published bimonthly and distributed throughout Singapore. Trademarks and copyrights for all other products, logos and depictions contained herein are the properties of their respective trademark and copyright owners. All colour separation and printing by Stamford Press Pte Ltd. Singapore MCI (P) 100/05/2014


Back to Basics

Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writer Konrad Clapp Creative Director Lynn Ooi

Earth Day is coming up next month, so it’s not too early to showcase some ecofriendly travel ideas, just in case you’re concerned with your carbon footprint. March is also a shoulder season, meaning it’s a great time to get bargain airfares and room rates. It’s also a time to enjoy the best of 2 seasons; for example, you can still take advantage of ski season at many resorts around the world, and it’s warm enough in the valleys to partake in a hiking excursion, or maybe even a river adventure. We kick off the issue with a showcase on Oman, a desert nation that’s largely escaped the frenetic urbanisation that its neighbouring countries are going through. Here, you can explore its wild outback (where unique wildlife thrive), take in its cultural offerings, or head to the coast for some sun, sand and sea. We then head to India’s southern state of Kerala, home to a booming adventure tourism market. Cycling and hiking are great ways to see the state’s lush landscape, with the slow pace allowing you to the chance to spot a few elusive felines (if you’re lucky). New Zealand is no stranger to outdoor adventure; this issue, we visit the South Island to look at some of its most scenic spots – ideal if you’re a photography enthusiast. Closer to home, we visit Penang, with its activity-packed events calendar that include the inaugural Penang Bridge Half Marathon (registration is now open). We close our issue with a feature on the iconic Route 66; this time, you can explore it on the saddle of a bicycle. The Bicycle Route 66 has recently been officiated, and it’s a great (eco-friendly) way to explore a piece of Americana. Also, we’ve got our second installment of ‘Sports +’, and we’re featuring a piece on high atitude training, written by Wilson Low, who will be participating in the upcoming Yak Ru race in Nepal for the second time. Do check our website for updated blogs, or drop us a line if you want to give us some feedback or contribute a travel story! Until then, happy trails!

Events & Partnerships Chua Wei Ling General Manager Aaron Stewart

Media Rep Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd 242A River Valley Road Singapore 238299 Tel 6732 0325 www.sportsandtravelonline. com enquiry@sportsandtravelonline.com Sports and Travel Limited Rm. 1104 Crawford House 70 Queen’s Road Central Hong Kong Tel +852 2861 8746 enquiry@sportsandtravel.com.hk

Advertising Sales Singapore Irwan Ismail, Sales Manager irwan@sportsandtravelonline.com Aaron Stewart, General Manager aaron.stewart@sportsandtravelonline.com Hong Kong Chris Ng cng@sportsandtravel.com.hk

Contributors Gunther Deichmann, Ken Berg, Tamara Sanderson, Wilson Low

Special Thanks 10,000 Miles Panasonic US Library of Congress and many, many others!

VISIT US:

www.sportsandtravelonline.com

Do check out our YouTube page to watch our 20-minute short film on Rwanda, titled ‘10 Days in Rwanda’.

SportsandTravelSingapore SportsandTravelMag SportsandTravelSG


GEAR GUIDE

Fizan Compact Ultralite

SAFETY PRECAUTION

PacSafe’s Stashsafe 100 GII is an anti-theft hip pack, which packs some security features. The outer material is slash proof, and includes a concealed belt buckle, in addition to lockable zippers (a padlock is also provided). The back of the pack is padded and incorporates a breathable backing for comfort, and this model includes an RFID-blocking pocket. The Stashsafe is available at The Planet Traveller stores at S$99.

PacSafe Stashsafe 100 GII

WALK THE WALK

No Rinse Body Bath & Shampoo

CLEAN AND GREEN

The No Rinse Body Bath and No Rinse Shampoo allow you to freshen up without using much water. Both products are pH-balanced and non-irritating to sensitive skin. Simply apply onto body/hair, and then immediately towel dry. Hospitaltested and approved, they’ve also been used by NASA astronauts. Both are now available at Campers’ Corner at S$5 for each 2oz bottle.

FLEECING THE MARKET

The QUECHUA Forclaz 50 Women’s Fleece is made with 100% recycled polyester, which roughly translates to recycling 6 plastic bottles. The garment’s piling guarantees its insulating power over time, and retains its shape when washed. With a good warmth/thickness/compressibility ratio, this polyester knit is also breathable. The QUECHA is available online at Decathlon at only S$19.90 and comes with a 2-year guarantee.

The Fizan Compact Ultralite is reputed to be the world’s lightest 3-section aluminium trekking pole, weighing in at just 158g per pole. While it has the same features as many other poles (in terms of thickness with foam handle and padded straps), it manages to shave off 80-90g off even the lightest carbon models. The telescopic range is from 58-132cm, and features flexi locking system, e-basket with carbide tip, EVA-grip with neoprene strap and tip rubber protection. These Italian-made poles have been successfully used on difficult ascents of Everest and K2, and are sold in pair for S$169 at Adventure 21.

TREAT YOUR GEAR RIGHT

Nikwax is a name known for quality cleaning and waterproofing products, which help prolong the life of performance clothing, footwear and equipment. The range of products are easy to use (you can treat your gear in a washing machine or by hand), safe to use (products are non-toxic and water-based), and keep you dry. Whether you’re looking for something to clean your down jacket, waterproof your rain jacket or condition your leather hiking boots, Nikwax has a range of products for the job. A range of Nikwax products are available at Gearaholic, with prices ranging from S$9.90 to $26.

61 Ubi Road 1 #02-39 Oxley Bizhub Singapore 408727 | Tel: 6702 1031

07

Nikwax

(Tue-Sat: 1 - 8.30pm, Sun: 1 - 7pm, Mon & PH: Closed)


Edition 02

GEAR GUY: Ken Berg

GOING There are a number of things that can contribute to making a product more ethical than others. Is its impact on the environment as low as possible? Is it going to lessen the impact on the surroundings that you are travelling to? Are the people making the product treated fairly? It is a lot to consider but here are some products and organisations that are doing it right. GOOSE DOWN

Whether you are travelling or doing something in the outdoors, keeping weight low is key, and down is unparalleled in its warmth to weight ratio for cold weather clothing and sleeping bags. Recently it has come to light that some of the down that is on the market comes from places where animals are liveplucked and/or force fed in order to get foie gras. Since then, Patagonia and North Face have come up with programs to make sure that their products do not come from these sources. Their programs include key principle. If you’re thinking to avoid down altogether, consider that the International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory came out with a study in 2010 that said that down had the lowest carbon footprint of any insulator (natural or synthetic).

WOOL

It might not have the warmth to weight ratio or low carbon footprint of down, but merino wool has a few advantages too. First of all it can be used as a base layer and in socks, and secondly it doesn’t absorb odour the same way synthetics do. That means

Altitude Training

that you are washing it less and therefore using less resources in the long run. In fact even one load on a cold cycle that is hung to dry is estimated to put 0.6 kg of CO2 into the air. If you’re concerned about the way the animal is treated, look for mulesing-free wool (it’s where a chunk of skin is cut away from the hindquarters of a sheep). Smartwool and Icebreaker are among the brands that make great products that are also mulesing free. Country of origin can also help you select the wool, as New Zealand has almost completely phased out the practice whereas Australia has not.

SOLAR RECHARGING

Gadgets have become essential for travel, but keeping them charged can be difficult depending on availability of power sources. Solar chargers are getting better and better in terms of energy output and reliability; they’re not only convenient, they’re better for the environment. Goal Zero’s Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit can charge 4 AA batteries in approximately 3 hours of sunlight

Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada’s premier outdoor retailer for over 10 years, putting gear to the test whether it’s cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.

and holds enough of a charge to power up an iPhone twice. Enerplex also has a charging case for an iPhone – besides protecting your phone from dings, it provides twice the amount of battery life, and the solar charger gets a bit of a charge even from indoor light.

COOKING AND CHARGING

There are a number of options for charging batteries as you cook. The Power Practical Power Pot V is a pot that uses the difference in temperature from the pot and your heat source to generate electricity. In fact, it generates a similar amount of charge to what you would get if you plugged into a wall. It does require water to work, so it’s appropriate for every meal. Biolite is a stove that uses biomass to heat up your food, and still has enough charge left over to provide energy in the backcountry. The company also works on providing cleaner burning home cooking solutions in developing countries.

ECO HOTSPOTS FOR 2015 If you’re thinking of an eco destination to travel to for 2015, here are some of the top choices chosen by experts on ecotourism. These are based on data regarding responsible, sustainable tourism opportunities each place has to offer. Cape Verde: A model for political and civil rights in Africa, the World Bank commended Cape Verde for its efforts to expand tourism while protecting their communities and environment. The nation is aiming for 35% renewable energy use over the next 2 decades. Kelmtu, British Columbia: Situated in the remote Great Bear Rainforest, Kelmtu is a small Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation community only accessible by floatplane

or boat. Focusing on natural and cultural tourism, the Spirit Bear Lodge (SBL) is a significant conservation model. Tortuguero, Costa Rica: Tortuguero is roadless and remote, and the main draw is its sea turtles which nest along the black sand beach (Feb and Nov). Turtle tours and other eco activities have brought income to locals and helped to slow poaching of turtles and their eggs. Uruguay: Uruguay has a goal of 90% renewable electricity by 2015, and plans to introduce electric taxis and buses in 2015. Already, visitors to Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and a World Heritage Site, can tour the town by electric car.

Samoa: Samoa’s breathtaking coastline, coral reefs, marine wildlife and rainforestcovered volcanic peaks are greatly valued by Samoans. The government recently invested $1 million into a new project which aims to increase biodiversity and combat the effects of climate change.

Image from Yak Ru 2014 in Nepal

Adventure Sports Supplement


Issue 02: Altitude Training

Acclimatisation is the most commonly adopted method for athletes from the lowlands. Spending a few days at moderate altitudes, and then ascending gradually to a higher locale (and then resting once more, and thereafter repeat the process).

such a facility are that one can still enjoy a mix of high-altitude and sea-level training that complements each other. One’s body is forced to adapt in low-oxygen situations, and subsequently, is able to exert higher efforts back in ‘normal’ oxygen levels over time.

MAINTENANCE

Adaptation can occur in as little as five days in a high-altitude location for a healthy individual. This follows the ‘sleep high, train high’ school of thought and is believed to be logistically the most effective way of conditioning.

TRAINING

Another form of adaptation is intermittent hypoxic training, a system of conditioning whereby some of the athlete’s training sessions are done in a low-oxygen environment. This method of ‘training high’ can be achieved through an altitude chamber that extracts oxygen from the air (thus simulating a higher altitude). TEXT BY Wilson Low

Exciting, far-flung, high-altitude travel destinations are more and more on travellers’ radars as development and the tourism industry make inroads. Along with activities such as mountaineering, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and climbing becoming more accessible in high-altitude areas such as the Himalayas (India, Nepal), the Andes (Chile, Argentina, Peru), and the Rockies (Canada, United States), it is inevitable that increased visitor numbers have also seen a corresponding higher incidences in altitude-related ailments and sickness – and occasionally, tragedy. Even before factoring in the challenges of the cold, alpine terrain, poor visibility, or high winds, high altitudes can be dangerous to the untrained individual. Simply put: as altitude increases, the less air pressure there is, and the less oxygen there is for the body to consume; the human cardiorespiratory system then has to work harder and harder to maintain organ and cerebral functions.

Mountains

Such a facility is available in Singapore at the Altitude Gym. The benefits of going to

The best workouts in a hypoxic environment are the high-intensity interval sessions – with one caveat: some steadypaced, low-intensity activity is necessary on the initial few sessions before progressing on to the more advanced workouts with bigger efforts. If it can be afforded, low-land dwellers can opt for a hypoxic tent in their bedrooms where they rest or sleep at night, while continuing to do their workouts outdoors in the regular way. This is a more costly option, but applies the concept of ‘training low, sleeping high’, which has also shown to be beneficial from the point of allowing the body to rest/recover at altitude, rather than being stressed at altitude.

Being able to move fast up high is not a given: coming from sea-level, one has to feel the effects of oxygen deprivation first-hand to understand why it is so hard to perform well at altitude for a surprisingly large number of people, even for some natives of high-altitude regions. Consistent, well-timed acclimatisation and altitude conditioning goes a long way to ensuring that at least mentally, if not physically, one is prepared to subject their physiology to the stress. It must also be noted that unless you’re genetically predisposed, altitude conditioning is temporary: spend time away from altitude stimulus, and you will revert back to an untrained state after awhile. Train hard to stay strong and safe, but nonetheless always be cautiously respectful of the mountains.

HIGH ALTITUDE TRAINING EFFECTS OF ALTITUDE

Oxygen saturation in the bloodstream, or ‘sats’ in mountaineering lingo, is typically around 95-100% at sea level. At altitude – which can be as ‘low’ as 2,000m above sea level (ASL) – some individuals can experience the beginnings of hypoxemia (abonormally low blood oxygen saturation), where sats drops below 90% and breathing starts to require more effort. At heavy exertion at this kind of baseline state, sats of 80% or lower are not uncommon – accompanied by elevated perceived exertion, heart rate, breathing, and drops in power output, speed, and time to exhaustion. In the 50-70% range (regardless of exertion level), physical capacity and judgment can be compromised severely, with the individual possibly having their life under threat within a matter of days, if not hours – unless they are moved

to an environment with higher oxygen concentrations ASAP. The worst symptoms of altitude sickness include edemas (accumulation of fluid) in the lungs and brain, disorientation, severe shortness of breath, and coma – eventually leading to death if left untreated.

ACCLIMATISATION

Genetic predisposition plays a huge role, as does the environment you were brought up in (ever wonder why native high country and mountain-dwelling Nepalis who have lived all their lives in these locales can thrive?), but altitude conditioning is trainable. An individual’s blood chemistry can be altered, albeit temporarily, with gradual introduction of ‘altitude stress’, allowing for better sats values, stronger performances, and greater tolerance to fatigue even at high altitude.

DEVICES

Also in the market are ‘resistance training devices’, which come in the form of breathing masks with a special valve system. These simulate the breathing conditions of being high in the mountains by creating pulmonary resistance as you are forced to inhale fuller, deep breaths. Worn during workouts, they help to strengthen the diaphragm by making your lungs work harder at being able to use available oxygen more efficiently. This is known as inspiratory muscle training (IMT), designed to train the respiratory muscles. While research has shown that it improves arterial oxygen saturation, more research will tell if IMT actually boosts high-altitude performance. For now, it is proven to slow down muscle fatigue, so athletes recover faster at high altitudes.

Wilson Low completed the inaugural Yak Ru Annapurna Challenge high-altitude mountain bike stage race in 2014. Wilson is based in sea-level Singapore, and works as a professional mountain bike skills instructor with MTBSkills Singapore as well as a triathlon coach with Athlete Lab.


Brought to you by

Mountain Races Around the World

Mountain racing is experiencing a surge in popularity across the world, with both trail running as well as mountain biking events appearing on race calendars annually. In case you’re up for the challenge, here are some high altitude races that might interest you:

RUNNING Fuji Mountain Race

Vietnam Mountain Marathon

Where: Mt. Fuji, Japan When: 24 Jul 2015 Distance: 15km & 21km The 68-year-old mountain race is divided into 2 courses – the summit course (21km) and the 5th station course (15km). Starting from Fujiyoshida City, the trail is on tarmac to the 5th station, before continuing on mountain paths where runners scramble to the summit at Hisashi Shrine at 3,776m.

Jungfrau Marathon

Where: Sapa, Vietnam When: 26 Sept 2015 Distance: 10km, 21km, 42km & 70km The VMM route takes runners through the mountain region of Sapa and Hoang Lien National Park, past villages and rice fields, before reaching the high point at 1,780m. The VMM is a qualifying race for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2016, with a new 10km trail added this year.

Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon

Where: Switzerland When: 12 Sept 2015 Distance: 42.2km

The race is set in the beautiful lakeside town of Interlaken in central Switzerland, although the one-way route can be very challenging. The terrain changes from smooth to rough road, and then trail before finishing at the Jungfrau region of the Swiss Alps at roughly 2,200m.

Where: Sarawak, Malaysia When: 17-18 Oct 2015 Distance: 23km & 33km The race starts at Kinabalu Park (1,560m) and splits into 2 routes at Layang Layang Hut (2,760m): one heads up and down steep granite slabs towards Low’s Peak (4,095m) and then rejoins the second route which goes through a nature resort and golf course before ending at Kundasang.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

OMAN SPECIAL Yak Ru

Where: Annapurna, Nepal When: 30 Mar - 11 Apr 2015 Distance: 240km This 5-stage mountain bike race in the Annapurna range takes riders to an altitude of 5,416m (at Thorong La Pass) in just 5 cycling days, covering a distance of 240km. The extreme altitude (with 1 day’s acclimatisation) and thick snow conditions make this a challenging ride.

Alpac Attack

Where: Chile & Argentina When: 13-19 Apr 2015 Distance: 700km From the creators of Nepal’s Yak Attack, this scenic race journeys through Patagonia before crossing the Andes mountains and finishes at the foot of the Villarrica volcano in Chile. Riders cross lava fields, steppes, and forests in 6 stages, including a 2,829m ascent.

Salzkammergut Trophy

Where: Salzkammergut, Austria When: 11 Jul 2015 Distance: 22km - 211.3km Europe’s toughest mountain bike marathon (dropout rate of 50%), the race takes place in the UNESCO region of Salzkammergut through spectacular scenery. There are several race categories, ranging from 22km (Rookie) to the challenging 211.3km (7,049m altitude difference).

Located at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, the Sultanate of Oman has long been the Gulf’s best kept tourism treasure, and for many years been attracting only the most curious of adventurers. Stretching from the arid Hajar Mountains in the north to the fertile plains of Dhofar in the south, Oman’s varied landscape also encompasses sandy beaches, desert plains and rocky valleys (wadis). Dotted throughout are ancient forts, castles and souqs –

vestiges of kings and warriors of a bygone era. Oman offers visitors a rare chance to visit the Arab world without being inundated in the excessive wealth that defines its cosmopolitan neighbours like the UAE. That said, this once feudal-nation has been quietly developing its education, infrastructure and tourism, bringing the country firmly into the 21st century with 4G connectivity and all the trappings of a strong, stable economy.

© Oman Tourism

Modernisation has been kept deliberately slow, with the intent of retaining its culture and tradition. This has meant that while Oman has grown as a luxury destination, its low-rise towns retain their traditional charms. So, whether you’re here to explore its ancient forts, go hiking or canyoning at one of its many wadis, catch a camel race, or simply experience events like the Muscat Festival, old world charm (and ancient Bedouin ways) remain at the heart of an Omani welcome.


Fly direct from Singapore to Oman

MUSCAT

The pulsating heart of Oman, Muscat is a capital where ancient and modern exist side by side. Here, you’ll see old markets, small shops, ancient towers and gates interspersed with a cosmopolitan mix of restaurants, fabulously ornate hotels, and gleaming malls – in line with a longstanding royal decree, no building in Muscat is over 10 storeys high. Thanks to its strategic position in the Gulf, this coastal city is dotted with historic coastal forts and watchtowers. Towering over Muscat’s skyline are the twin imposing forts of Al Mirani and Al Jilali, built in 1580 and perched at the headlands on Muscat Harbour. These guard the Al Alam Palace, the official residence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, which features a stunning forecourt.

Brought to you by

Another attraction is the Mutrah Corniche, a coastal road dotted with latticed buildings and mosques. At one end of the Corniche is the old Muscat Gate (which is traditionally locked daily at sunset for almost 5 centuries), while at the other is a souq which has retained its chaotic charm and traditional way of life.

WILDLIFE AND NATURE

Contrary to popular belief, the stark desert landscape is actually home to a number of indigenous wildlife. Oman has quite a few wildlife reserves, including As Saleel Nature Park (an acacia forest home to the Omani wild cat), Jebel Samhan (for its Arabian leopard sanctuary) and Wadi Sireen, where you can find the Arabian tahr. Desert dwellers like the Arabian white oryx, as well as a number of

Then there are golden beaches, Bawshar sand dunes, and the mountains further inland. Just outside town are other forts, including the 1,300-year-old Rustaq (and hot springs) and Nakhal Fort, located at the base of the Hajar Mountains.

© Oman Tourism © Oman Tourism

gazelle and fox species can also be found throughout Oman. As Oman sits on the crossroads of 3 continents (Europe, Asia and Africa), it’s well placed among bird migratory routes. There are good birding sites in every region, with the coastal khors (lagoons) and islands attracting plenty of waterbirds in addition to ospreys, tropic-birds and falcons.

of beaches including Ras Al Jinz (with 4 different species of turtle), Masirah Island, and Al-Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, which comprises 9 islands that are home to sea turtles, migratory (and indigenous) birds, as well as a healthy coral reef just offshore.

The inland regions, meanwhile, are home to desert species like the sandgrouse, hoopoe lark and the rare Macqueen’s bustard. The best season to catch migratory birds is between August and November, or February to May. The unspoiled coastline and swathes of pristine sand attracts plenty of nesting turtles, and you can see them at a number

PRACTICALITIES

© Oman Tourism

© Oman Ministry of Information

There will be daily direct flights to Muscat from Singapore via Oman Air from 29th March, with a flight time of 7 hours. Citizens from most countries qualify for Visa on Arrival, which costs OMR20 (about S$72) and is valid for 1 month. For more on fares, visit www.omanair.com.

© Oman Ministry of Information

Due to the desert climate, the peak travel season to Oman is from November to March, when temperatures hover between 24ºC and 27ºC. For more on Oman, visit www.omantourism.gov.om.

LAND OF ADVENTURE

Oman’s wild mountain and desert landscapes are made for outdoor activities. There’s an extensive network of hiking trails in the country, particularly in the Western Hajar, with well-marked trails winding through some of Oman’s most spectacular mountain ridges, wadis and canyons. From high-altitude treks to challenging canyoning trails requiring wading through watercourses, there’s something for everyone. Oman is considered one of the world’s hottest climbing destinations, and plenty of routes are available along canyons like Khubrah (with 20 equipped routes), Hadash and Wadi Bani Awf, as well as

cliff walls at Qantab – all within driving distance of Muscat. At Bander Khayran, Snake Canyon and Jebel Shams, there are also Via Ferrata routes. You can go caving at any of Oman’s vast network of hollowed-out underground caverns, including Majlis Al Jinn (the second largest underground chamber in the world), Al Hoota Cave (a huge cave with 2 lakes) and Muqal Cave, with its natural pools and waterfalls. Whether it’s the steep switchbacks of the stunning Hajar Mountains at Wadi Bani Khalid, or the vast stretches of sandy desert at Wahiba Sands (which rise up to 150m), you can explore them on 4WD tours, quad bikes, or a camel safari.

From the flat plains of Wadi Al Ala to the rocky climbs of the Tanuf canyon, mountain biking is another way to explore Oman. Along the way, you can visit oasis villages and ancient forts. In recent years, Oman has played host to a number of cycling events, including the Tour of Oman, and the Trans Hajar MTB Race. In contrast to its stark interior, Oman’s underwater environment teems with marine life like turtles, dolphins, and whale sharks. There are over 100 dive sites scattered along the coast, featuring rich coral reefs and wreck dives. Above the water, kitesurfing in Oman has been gaining momentum quickly, especially amongst international pros.

On 29 March, 2015 Oman Air will launch direct daily services between Singapore and Muscat, connecting South East Asia and the Middle East. Oman Air is committed to providing you with a safe, reliable and seamless flying experience – enhanced by warm and friendly customer service.

Book and Check-in Online Oman Air offers an interactive online booking check-In facility for convenient, stress-free airport check-ins. Online Check-in is available between 24 hours and 90 minutes before your departure time. In-flight Connectivity Whichever cabin you are travelling in, you can send SMS or make calls to your friends, family or colleagues with our OnAir mobile services. Log-on and check emails, surf the web and update

your social media with Oman Air’s WY-Fi internet services. And our greatvalue, flexible pricing means that you can choose the level of connectivity you want, whenever you fly on our Airbus A330 Fully Connected flights. In-flight Entertainment Sit back and enjoy your journey in comfort, with a great range of the latest Arabic and international movies, up-tothe-minute TV shows, including satellite TV news, as well as music and games – all at your fingertips, and all on demand.


India

17 Situated on the southwestern coast of India, Kerala faces the Arabian Sea and is backed by the Western Ghats which tower up to 2,700m. From the highlands, the undulating hills and valleys merge into the unbroken coastline, spliced by an intricate network of canals and rivers. Thanks to its varied geography and location, Kerala’s history is closely linked with the spice trade of early merchants and travellers, with Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese and British having left an imprint – from architecture to cuisine – on this coastal state. No stranger to travellers, Kerala has long been known as a cultural destination – images of houseboats cruising along the lazy backwaters, as well as cultural performances and Ayurvedic retreats often top a visitor’s itinerary. However, in recent years, Kerala has been introducing a number of adventure-oriented activities that allow you to see the state in a different – and eco-friendly – way. CYCLING

There is nothing more eco-friendly than getting around on a bicycle. Cyclists have plenty of options to choose from: rustic country lanes, winding paths across lush paddy fields, dusty tracks in remote hamlets, and exotic trails in tea gardens, spice plantations and rubber estates. It’s a lot easier to meet friendly locals, break for chai, or stop by destinations not on tourist maps when you’re travelling at a leisurely pace. The Hill Trail The journey begins from the lowland forest of Thattekkad in Ernakulam, a globally

ADVENTURE IN KERALA acclaimed bird sanctuary that’s home to over 300 bird species including drongos, bulbuls, parakeets, and hornbills. The route follows the banks of Periyar River and spice-scented mountain roads until it reaches the foothills of the Western Ghats in Adimali. Situated in an area called the Cardamom Hills, this region is famous for producing some of the world’s best pepper and cardamom, and is dotted with plenty of waterfalls and pretty valleys. The route winds its way uphill towards Munnar (1,600m), a hill station known for its undulating landscape of tea plantations, before bringing you to Chinnar

Wildlife Sanctuary, a habitat for the endangered Giant Grizzled Squirrel. Heading down to lower elevations, you’ll reach Kerala’s most famous waterfalls – Athirappalli and Vazhachal, situated at the edge of the Sholayar forest about 5km apart from each other. Numerous cycle outfitters provide tours to the hill region, with itineraries that include wildlife tours, nights on a houseboat, a river raft cruise or visits to coastal villages. Depending on the operator, trips can start either from Kochi or Munnar, and itineraries range from 3 to 12 days.


Beach to Backwater Tour A fairly level ride, the route takes you past fishing villages, paddy fields and coconut plantations along the beaches of Alappuzha (or Alleppey), a backwater country with a vast network of lakes, lagoons and rivers. This ‘Venice of the East’ is famous for its boat races and coir industry, and you can see coconut husks being made into ropes and mats at small villages as you ride by. From the resort area of Marari Beach, you can cycle to Kuttanadu, the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’, one of a few places in the world where traditional farming is done below sea level. The vast expanse of green paddy fields is dotted with coconut groves and canals, and flocks of parrots can be seen hovering above. Further along the coastal road is Kumarakom, a backwater resort area that’s also popular for birdwatching, particularly for migratory birds like darters, herons, cuckoos and storks. A variety of cycle tours are available, and accommodation options range from homestays to houseboats and eco lodges.

Wild Tracks Tucked in the hills of the Western Ghats, Wayanad is home to sub-tropical savannahs, picturesque hill stations, sprawling spice forests, and some of the oldest tribes in India. Here, you can ride along tea and spice plantations, quaint villages and thick jungle. Attractions along the way include spice town Vythiri (790m), and Sulthan Bathery (1,000m) which is known for its pre-historic caves, jungle trails, and lush undulating hills. The winding uphill roads can be quite challenging, although you can break the ride into 2 days and add the option to get off the saddle for a bit of hiking up to Chembra Peak, one of Wayanad’s tallest peaks. The 2,100m climb takes you up to Chembra Lake, with breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and tea plantations along the way. For a bit of culture, you can ride to Thirunelli, site of a Vishnu temple that’s believed to be over 1,000 years old. Surrounded by mountains and hidden in dense woods, you can see the Brahmagiri range from here.

MTB Kerala This April, MTB Kerala is back with its third bike race installment. The earlier 2 editions of this sporting event took riders – both local and international – on a tour of exploration through the forests of Thenmala and the beaches of Kovalam, and in 2014, the race route took them through the wilderness of Wayanad. This year, the course is set again at Wayanad, with a route that takes riders past its thick forests with demanding uphill rides. For more, visit www.mtbkerala.com.

TREKKING

Kerala’s mountains and forests are ideal for trekking, with a variety of trails to suit any level of hiker; a typical hiking trip takes you past spice- and tea plantations, rural villages and majestic valleys. From misty knolls to herb gardens and teak plantations, you may be able to spot elusive wildlife like gaurs, elephants and maybe even a tiger. Parambikulam, Palakkad Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary (also a tiger reserve), is a land of challenging hills (ranging from 300m to 1,438m) boasting 9,000 hectares of teak plantation. Here, there are 2 interesting trekking options. The Parambikulam Tram Trek is a 40km, 2-day itinerary that follows the disused line of the Cochin State Forest Tramway (built in 1905 to transport teak from the area), taking hikers through the wildlife sanctuary that’s home to sambars, sloth bears, porcupines, deer and elusive tigers, in addition to wetland birdlife like hornbills, owls and eagles. Pieces of the tramway (like elevated teak bridges and rusted wagons) still remain, making it a unique heritage trail that passes thick jungle, scenic lakes and fantastic scenery.

The 6km-long Kariyanshola (or Karian Shola) Trail is ideal for nature lovers. Starting from Anappady, the guided trek (with naturalists) will take you through forests that are rich in birdlife like woodpeckers and parakeets. Parambikulam also happens to be Kerala’s second Tiger Reserve, and is also home to leopards and black panthers. The trail visits a watch tower before returning via a teak plantation. Munnar, Idukki Popular with trekkers, the undulating lush terrain of Munnar offers a picturesque 6-hour trek through a butterfly forest before reaching the peak of Meesapulimala (2,624m), the second highest peak in South India. The trail undulates past high altitude grasslands (where elephants and rare Nilgiri tahrs can be spotted) and sholas (high altitude rainforests); at one point of the trail you can see the world’s highest tea estate – Kolukkumalai – in the hills just below. While the beginning of the hike ascends slowly via undulating hills,

the final ascent to the top of Meesapulimala is steep. The descent takes hikers through tea plantations onto scenic Rhodo Valley. Agasthyakoodam, Thiruvananthapuram Agasthyakoodam (1,868m) is the second highest peak in Kerala. The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (permits required) is home to colourful orchids, as well as an abundance of rare medicinal herbs and plants used for Ayurvedic treatments. The mountain is also a pilgrimage centre for devotees of Agastya, and there is a full-sized statue of Agathiyar at the top of the peak. Trekking to the peak is open to pilgrims from January to mid-March, with passes issued at Trivandrum. The route starts from Bonacaud, one of a few tea plantations established by Europeans.

GETTING THERE OTHER ACTIVITIES

Kerala has also developed a number of other options for adventurous visitors – these include rock climbing (particularly at Eruthavoor and Thenmala) and paragliding in Vagamon (home Paragliding Festivals). Thanks to its network of rivers, watersports are popular. At Alappuzha, the palm-fringed backwaters can be explored on a kayak, while at Boothathankettu (Ernakulam), the rushing river and rapids along the Periyar River make it an ideal

rafting destination (Paneli Poru is said to be the most exciting stretch). Along the coast at Kovalam, the large waves (up to 2m) and strong currents make it an ideal surfing destination. Kerala is also home to 16 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks, and safaris are a great way to see protected wildlife. You can follow a tiger trail at Periyar, come face to face with the rare Lion-tailed Macaque at Gavi, or spot herds of free-roaming elephants at Wayanad.

There are direct flights from Singapore to Kochi, with a flight time 4.5hrs, via SilkAir and Tigerair. Travellers to India will have to apply for a visa before visiting the country. Visas can now be applied online via http://indianvisaonline.gov.in, with the exception of 12 countries (including Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, and Indonesia) that qualify for a Visa On Arrival scheme. Visit www.keralatourism.org for more information on Kerala.


In winter, Wanaka is the ideal base to access a number of premier ski resorts, including Treble Cone (known for its good snow), Cardrona Alpine Resort (popular with beginners), and Snow Park (known for its terrain park); Wanaka gets busy in high season (July to September). Mt. Aspiring National Park A hiker’s paradise, Mt. Aspiring National Park – with its mountains, glaciers, lakes, river valleys and rock formations – offers a large number of short walks and longdistance treks. From Wanaka, the Matukituki Valley (a photographer’s delight) offers a number of easy walks with alpine views from the valley floor, including the Aspiring Hut walk and the Rob Roy track (both 1.5 hours).

New Zealand needs no introduction as ‘Middle Earth’, a land of stunning diverse natural scenery with its jagged mountains, rolling pastures, steep fjords, raging rivers and pristine lakes. While the North Island is the hub of Maori culture, the South Island is known for its outdoor activities, thanks to its sparsely-inhabited landscape that’s dominated by rugged mountains.

Popular long treks include the 3-day Routeburn Track (between Lake Wakatipu and the Te Anau-Milford Road) and the 5-day Rees-Dart track (following the Rees River and Dart River), both of which are best tackled in summer. Due to the high elevations, the majority of the walks are best undertaken between November and March; only trails in the Matukituki Valley can be safely walked at any time of the year. In winter, ice climbing and mountaineering trips can be arranged. Milford Sound Nestled within the Fjordland National Park, Milford Sound is a waterway dotted with cliffs that rise precariously from the dark waters.

Lush forests cling to these cliffs, some of which cascade with waterfalls as high as 1,000m. The most common way to explore this fjord is by a boat cruise, although kayaking gets you closer to the seals, penguins, dolphins and the occasional whale. Hiking in the area is also popular, with trails ranging from 3-6 hours. While most trails are accessible yearround, the Gertrude Valley Walk (with views of Milford Sound and the Darran Mountains) and the Grave Talbot Walk (which follows the thundering Fjorland River) are only open in summer and autumn.

NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND

Located in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand experiences autumn from March to May, and winter from June to August. SOUTH ISLAND

Most would agree that the best way to explore New Zealand is on a self-drive. Christchurch, New Zealand’s third-largest city and the international gateway to the South Island, is the best starting point. Nestled between the Canterbury Plains and the Pacific Ocean, it’s also an ideal place to go whale watching, rafting and visiting internationally-acclaimed wineries. Tekapo About 3-4 hours’ drive south from Christchurch is Lake Tekapo, situated in the Mackenzie Basin of the Southern Alps. With a backdrop of snowy mountains, the lake is famous for its intense milkyturquoise colour. On the lakeshore is the famous Church of the Good Shepherd, built in 1935 and features an altar window that frames the stunning views. By night, Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, an ideal spot for stargazing and astronomy tours. Autumn is the best time to visit the

Mackenzie district for photographers, when the lakes are dotted with an explosion of yellow trees and the mountains have a dusting of snow. Come winter, you can ski at Roundhill, just a 20-30 minute drive from Tekapo Village. The wide, gentle slopes are ideal for beginners, but for those who can shred, the ski resort has the largest vertical drop in Australasia (783m). Aoraki Mt. Cook The dramatic landscape of Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park is made up of massive glaciers and jagged mountains dotted with lakes and rivers. The snowcapped range is home to New Zealand’s tallest mountain – Aoraki/Mt. Cook (3,724m) – along with 27 other mountains. The alpine village of Aoraki is a great base for a host of activities, including horse treks, 4WD safaris, glacier lake boating, as well as numerous hikes, including the popular 4-hour Hooker Valley Track. The hike leads up to the Hooker Valley

towards Mt. Cook, passing the viewpoint at Alpine Memorial. The trail traverses a number of swing bridges, and ends at a glacier lake with amazing views of Mt. Cook, the Hooker Glacier and the Southern Alps. In winter, there are guided ski trips on the Tasman (NZ’s longest glacier), which is popular for heli-weddings. Wanaka Surrounded by mountains, the town of Wanaka is situated at the southern end of Lake Wanaka. As a gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, it is a popular tourist resort that’s generally less crowded than Queenstown. In autumn, golden hues accentuate the picturesque landscape – you can go horse trekking in Cardrona Valley, kayak on a tree-lined waterway, or tackle any of the walking trails. Photographers can appreciate the early morning light and mist on Lake Wanaka.

Queenstown Billed as an adventure town, Queenstown is known for is outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, canyon swinging, river rafting and jet boating year round (with skiing in winter). Located along the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a renowned biking destination, providing everything from easy scenic backcountry trails to heli-biking and gondola-accessed downhill mountain biking. While summer is a popular season, cycling in autumn has the added advantage of stunning foliage. Just 20 minutes away is Arrowtown, a living historic settlement with tree-lined

streets dotted with restored cottages. Once a gold mining town, attractions include the Chinese settlement which dates from 1868. In April and May, the entire area comes alive with autumn foliage, and a winter festival is held in the last week of April to celebrate the town’s beauty and history. Also along Lake Wakatipu and the Dart River is Glenorchy, which is popular for jet boating and kayaking. Some of NZ’s most famous hiking trails (like Routeburn) are accessible here. In addition, its spectacular landscape has been the backdrops of movies like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia.

GETTING THERE

Christchurch is the international gateway to New Zealand’s South Island, with a number of flight options from Singapore. For photographers, the best time to visit would be autumn (March-May), when the lakes and mountains are draped in golden hues. Local tour operator 10,000 Miles has an 8D7N “Kia Ora! South Island SelfDrive Photography Trip”, departing 25 April, with prices from S$2,799. Visit http://10000-miles.com for more information.


Nepal open for toreunoriwsm ned for its gok townou o M s r’ a m n ntain town ya M m ist e ot m re e pu th ar, a po lar tour

BATTLE OF THE SKIES

om) ww.omanair.c flights beOman Air (w ing daily direct ch un la be 2015, with ill w Oman Air e from 29 Mar d from t and Singapor an ca y us M om n on ee Ec tw S$974.50 for m fro s re fa l specia ss. r Business Cla S$2,819.50 fo es.com) s (turkishairlin ich from Turkish Airline pe, with Mun ro eat fares to Eu 9, Athens/ gr 42 s S$ ha h m is fro rk c Tu rid/Rome, et ad / /M ue na ag en Pr Vi d S$349, S$459 an udapest from 9. 49 Amsterdam/B m S$ eneva etc fro Stockholm/G aland.com.sg) Air New and (airnewze al Ze ew N r Ai hangi Airport, flights from C 999 and ed S$ m m su re fro g nd Havin res to Auckla fa o om pr s Zealand ha from S$1,328. Christchurch Queenstown/ com) (cathaypacific. rdholdCathay Pacific s for OCBC ca re fa l ia ec sp s ha Taipei 6, fic ci 11 Pa S$ y Catha Bangkok from e lik ns d South io an at ) in ka ers to dest ka/Tokyo/Osa Japan (Fukuo 5, 27 0. S$ 43 m fro m S$ usan/Jeju) fro Korea (Seoul/B es) om.sg) fuel surcharg Silkair (silkair.c cl. taxes and (in s k, re fa bo o m Lo om , Silkair’s pr sia (Bandung r 205 to Indone ng), S$246 fo start from S$ sar, Palemba as ak M , KK), ar , as ng np na De Pe i, o, Manad (Langkaw 6 for Malaysia for India Phuket, S$20 nang), S$527 Da , oi an (H m na tnam), et pa Vi r ha fo ak 8 sh S$36 Hyderabad, Vi , re to gzhou) ba an m H oi , (Kochi, C Chongqing na (Shenzhen, hi C r fo 9 49 S$ r Darwin. and S$609 fo 0 r.com) to Taipei, S$74 Eva Air (evaai t from S$300 d ar st an s S re U fa e o th to Eva’s prom , S$1,100 250 to Europe ). 1, tle S$ at , m Se o/ ua G sc ci to Fran Angeles/San Canada (Los g) is irniugini.com.s by, Air Niugini Air Niugini (a to Port Mores g PADI llin of f ve oo tra pr rs For dive lowances with al e ag gg ba offering extra 1,040. starts from S$ license. Fares

s.com.au) urne/Brisbane Qantas (qanta Sydney/Melbo to s re fa land/ s ha Qantas 880 and Auck Hobart from S$ travel from 12 r fo 0 98 from S$680, S$ m Wellington fro Christchurch/ . 15 20 pt Se Apr to 17 reair.com) rines (singapo min. 2 to Singapore Ai ong Kong with H to re fa w lo a done by g SQ is offerin ing has to be person. Book r 15. pe 20 0 19 ay M S$ go at Apr & 28 vel between 1 15 Apr for tra nditions apply

Terms and co

for all offers

Mogok, Myanm m markets, is emerging as es to visit becom d ge ruby mines an getting permits inistry of M s e th es m oc pr fro e it th obtain a perm destination as to n ca ed d ne an ill s w visitors k to proces easier. While ch takes a wee ssible by road from hi w m is ur To ce its of Hotels and the town is ac d been off-lim a private car, o, the town ha . ag 0s s only access vi 99 de -1 ca id De m Hispaw. anted in the Mandalay and access was gr d ite lim ly on to visitors and

cific nsive tels in AsneiaanPdaSydney have the most alexHpeotel o H e iv s n e p x nu E bour ing to HRS An ties like Mel

rd Australian ci in 2014. Acco hotel rates Asia-Pacific the list, with ey ed pp to hotel rates in ne ur n-year. Sydn bo -o el ar M ye , e 14 ik 20 a 31.4% sp Hong Kong t, Price Radar d gh an ni e r or pe ap 289.20 hile Sing tively. averaging S$ S$256.20, w 23.20 respec nd place with 5.80 and $2 13) 23 20 S$ e at nc si was in seco ns ll fourth positio ght (10.7% fa d ni r an pe ird 0 th .2 took S$91 last place at ll (17.1%). Bangkok took the largest fa ed nc rie pe ex l ou Se d an

of Route 66 sociation just First Cycle Mapping, the Adventure Cycling Asof the iconic

of map cle map After 4 years les ehensive bicy st-ever compr from Los Ange fir ds e in th w d te ch hi bu w de e e ut Th . ro 15 ile 20 m e 2,493 – on 2 March Route 66 – th of it on end in Chicago rts to pa es ith at w st r, t cove in 6 through eigh y 32 days to rchase online ill take roughl ailable for pu av . entire route w is y) or ap st m r e ways. Th ge 26 for ou Interstate high ling.org (see pa yc ec ur nt ve ad parts at www.

’s trains ssian models, ver for Vietnam Ru

eo old 5-star maofkVi run trains are in 2015. etnam’s statestar services

ee While most ild two new fiv nning along th e works to bu s currently ru in . tra on plans are in th ily ig da Sa of d the handful , Da Nang an hi This adds to C ng Hanoi, Hue o ki H lin d ” an ay oi ilw Ra link Han “Reunification s service will with upgraded -south expres be complete ill w d an The new north , s) ur ho 31 , i. km i-F 20 dW Minh City (1,7 d free onboar a cafeteria an ticketing, TVs,

la Ban s After Eboan er rd o B s en d p eo re North Korea R d its strict quarantine measu Ebola virus, s lifte the deadly North Korea ha urists. Due to try borders to to vel to the coun its tra ed n en ig re op re trips to nned most fo in ba g d in lis ha ia a re ec North Ko agencies sp gs for months. Tour sume bookin for up to four they could re ld at to th e er ed w at n st natio rrier has also the reclusive rea’s state ca Ko th or N d March, an normal. ld be back to everything wou

trictions Eased port’, 62% of Global VisaUNRWesTO’s latest ‘Visa OpennesysfoRe , r visas in 2014

pl According to required to ap fic have pulation was and Asia Paci as ic er the world’s po Am e Th . and the 08 pe 20 ro in Eu % s litation, while down from 77 ci fa sa vi of ng economie refront licies. Emergi been at the fo ia ) have restrictive po e an or ce m O d ve an ha Middle East the Caribbean ia, East Africa, ies. (Southeast As lic po d ost relaxe some of the m

Situated within the steep terrains of midland Nepal, Kathmandu Valley is a patchwork of terraced fields and sacred temple towns. Its undulating, richly fertile land is surrounded by the mountains. Its central lower part stands at 1,425m above the sea level and is surrounded by 4 mountain ranges: Shivapuri (2,800m), Phulchowki (2,795m), Nagariun (2,725m) and Chandragiri (2,300m). Covering an area of 220 square miles, it is also densely packed with sacred sites and one third of farmlands. Much of the geography remains largely unchanged, but the number of houses and people have flourished since the 1980s. The valley is a cultural and political hub of Nepal, and was listed as a World Heritage Site by in 1979. While the valley is filled with many religious monuments throughout, the valley fringe is a great location for hiking and cycling.

RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF DAYS: 4-5 DAYS MUST SEE:

PRINCIPLE ACTIVITY: HIKING, CULTURE, CYCLING to Pharping, and climb through a pine forest where you will reach Champadevi Hill (2,285m) after a few hours. It commands a good view of Kathmandu Valley and the Himalayas, and has a small Buddhist and Hindu shrine.

> MONUMENT ZONES:

There are seven Monument Zones listed as UNESCO World Heritage in the Kathmandu Valley - namely in three cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. These monument zones are located in the Durbar square or urban centres with their palaces, temples and public spaces. Religious ensembles include the oldest Buddhist stupa in the Valley, the largest stupa in Nepal, an extensive Hindu temple precinct and traditional Newari settlement.

Nagarkot Hill is another option for hiking. It is a popular viewpoint for a panorama of the Himalayas, including Mt. Everest. The 4-hour hike begins at Sankhu, passing an uphill trail through scattered villages, forests and farmlands. On the second day, hike from Nagarkot to Changunarayan, Nepal’s oldest living monument dating back to the 5th century, through a forested ridgeline. For more woodland solitude and views, hike up Shivapuri, Nagarjun Ban’s Jamacho, or any high point on the valley rim.

Patan, or Yala, is separated from Kathmandu by the Bagmati River. Home to the finest collection of temples and palaces in the whole of Nepal, these can all be found at Durbar Square. Spend a night and you can explore the myriad tole (squares) and bahal (courtyards), as well as the four stupas which are said to have been erected in the 3rd century BC. Bhaktapur is the third of the medieval city-states. The three squares here are full of spectacular temples which are the finest in the region. The town is known for its culture, and visitors have to pay a town entry fee (which goes to protecting and maintaining the temples). In Kathmandu, just beyond the Ring Road, lies the hearts of Nepali religions: the Shiva temple and cremation ghats at Pshupatinath, the sacred centre of Nepali Hinduism. There are other historic Hindu holy places, including the sleeping Vishnu statues at Budhanilkantha and Balaju, the sacrificial pit of Dakshinkali and the hilltop temple of Changu Narayan. MUST DO: > HIKING: Although it’s surrounded by high mountains, the lower altitudes of the surrounding mountains of the Kathmandu Valley Rim allow for easy short treks (either camping or lodgeto-lodge) of 2-3 days. For a day hike, head

> CYCLING: Cycling tours around the valley range from one day to one week. The popular Nagarkot-Bhaktapur route is a downhill trail starting from Nagarkot through small villages, tea shops, forests and green terraced farms. After Changunarayan (home to an ancient World Heritage monument), the trail descends on tarmac to Bhaktapur, the oldest city in Nepal. The tougher trail from Kathmandu to Phulchowki via Godavari takes you through the rich forests to Phulchoki (2,800m), the highest point on the valley rim. This gorgeously rural side-valley, with small rock gardens, is also popular as a downhill singletrack that hugs the ridgeline. The Scar Road is one of the most well known and challenging rides in the Kathmandu Valley. Starting with a 34km climb on a winding paved road, it leads to Trishuli and the heart of Langtang. On a clear day the views of the Himalaya are spectacular. Once in the national park the trail becomes narrow and technical with fast and furious downhills, traversing the jungle with a cliff drop on one side. GETTING THERE There are direct flights from Singapore to Kathmandu Valley via Silkair.


Penang Bridge Marathon The Penang Bridge Marathon is the island’s most popular sporting event to date, held yearly since 1985. Billed as the world’s longest bridge marathon, runners from all over the world can challenge themselves by running across the third longest bridge in the world – The Penang Bridge – along a scenic coastal highway in either a full-, half- or quarter marathon.

respectively, with the top 3 spots in both the men’s and women’s categories being taken by the Kenyans. The fastest time clocked for the Men’s category was at 2:19:49 and for the women’s, 3:04:11.

For once per year only, the Penang Bridge is closed to traffic for several hours just to cater to the marathon. Last year’s event took place for the first time on the new Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge (Penang Second Bridge), with participation from about 62,000 runners.

This year, the marathon would be split into two, with the Penang Bridge Half Marathon happening on 14 June 2015 (Sunday) and the full marathon scheduled for 22 November 2015. Both runs will be held on the new Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge, connecting Batu Maung on the island to Batu Kawan on the mainland. For the half marathon this year, the top runners in both the men’s and women’s Open categories will stand to win RM25,000 each.

For 2014, a cash prizes of RM20,000 were given to the top runner for both the men’s and women’s Open categories

Runners in all categories who complete the run will also be awarded a finisher’s medal and a certificate, in addition to

attractive prizes from a select pool of sponsors. Registration for the Penang Bridge Half Marathon closes on 30 April 2015 and hopes to target 25,000 runners. On 12 - 13 June 2015, Penang will also be hosting the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) Conference. Hosted by the Penang Bridge Half Marathon, this is the first AIMS AsiaPacific Conference ever staged in the continent of Asia and Oceania. For registration for the half marathon, head to http://penangmarathon.gov.my.

Located on the northwest coast of the Malaysian peninsula in the Strait of Malacca, Penang consists of the main island and Seberang Perai on the mainland; back in its heyday as a colonial outpost, it was often referred to as “The Pearl of the Orient”. One of the most developed and economically important states in the country, Penang is also a popular tourist destination, ranking third in tourist arrivals in Malaysia. Filled with a rich heritage, multicultural society and vibrant culture, Penang’s hills, parks and beaches, as well as food are what draw tourists to the state.

ISLAND OF CULTURE

Penang was once a part of three British Straits Settlements in the Strait of Malacca – along with Malacca and Singapore – in the 19th and early 20th century. Today, the capital of George Town still retains many of its pre-war Peranakan houses and shophouses, in addition to churches, temples and colonial buildings; for this reason, it is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with Malacca). The heritage zone – Armenian Street, Pitt Street, Love Lane, Little India, the esplanade and Beach Road – can be explored on foot (or on a trishaw), with highlights including the Khoo Kongsi clan temple, Kapitan Keling Mosque, and Pinang Peranakan Mansion.

ACTIVITIES IN PENANG

A short distance from town is Penang Hill (800m), which is accessible via a tram or on a 2-3 hour hike from the Botanic Gardens. At the top of the hill are a smattering of colonial-style residences built at the turn of the 20th century. Located on the southeastern tip of the island is the War Museum, a large British military fortress built in the 1930s which was taken over by the Japanese during WWII. Here, you’ll find a network of tunnels, ventilation shafts, and artillery firing bays, in addition to a guillotine that was supposedly the site of numerous beheadings carried out by the Japanese. To the north of the island are some of Penang’s best-known beaches, including Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang, as well as Muka Head and

Monkey Beach, both of which are located within Penang National Park. Just offshore from the southeast coast of Penang lies Pulau Jerejak, an island that was formerly a leper asylum for the Straits Settlement, Quarantine Station and penal colony. Today, this former ‘Alcatraz’ is home to a pristine rainforest and a smattering of jungle resorts.

EVENTS IN PENANG

Penang is also well known for their range of sports, music and cultural events. These include the international dragon boat festival, which has been held in Penang annually since 1979 around the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, as well as the Penang Bridge Marathon, one of the biggest annual events on the island.

Penang World Music Festival This year, Penang will also host the Penang World Music Festival to be held on 11 & 12 April at the iconic Esplanade in George Town. Showcasing a blend of traditional and modern music, there will be musicians from Estonia, Spain, Germany, India and more; highlights include Mongolian tradition throat-singing (khoomei) which features the simultaneous sound of several pitches emanating from one voice, as well as a South African band with its fusion of tongue clicks and hip hop. In addition to workshop sessions at the imposing Fort Cornwallis, participants would also be able to sample famous Penang delicacies, as well as purchase CDs and souvenirs at the festival grounds.

For 2015, those who purchase tickets for the Penang World Music Festival from KOMTAR and Queensbay Mall would also be entitled to a free participation at the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2015 (held on 22 November) for any category. For more on the festival, visit www.penangworldmusic.gov.my.


The legendary Historic Route 66 – or the “Mother Road” – has been travelled by motorists for over 50 years. Decommissioned since the 80s, the 4,000km route – from Chicago (Illinois) to Santa Monica (California) through 8 states – can now be experienced by cyclists along the new Bicycle Route 66.

Bicycle Route 66 can be done from eastto-west (from Lake Michigan in Chicago) or in reverse (from Santa Monica Pier in California). Illinois: From Lake Michigan, the trail joins with Historic Route 66 and hits many small communities and historic roads along the way. At Litchfield, break for lunch at the Ariston Cafe, which is one of the oldest restaurants on Route 66. Much of the route is characterised by prairie landscape and rolling hills, before crossing the Mississippi River across the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge into Missouri. Missouri: From St. Louis, the Bicycle Route 66 takes cyclists past the rolling hills of the northern reaches of the Ozark Mountains, and heads into quiet roads before joining Historic Route 66 at Joplin.

Arizona: The Cycle Route passes the Petrified Forest National Park, with its haunting beauty, archaeological sites, historic structures (like the Painted Desert Inn) and unique geological formations, including petrified trees. Many towns in this region boast a collection of railroad and auto-related commercial architecture. For a bit of nostalgia, you can stay at the Wigwam Village Motel, where vintage automobiles are permanently on display.

California: The initial route traverses a hot, desert stretch (subject to violent thunderstorms), followed by peaks, mountain passes and steep road segments before reaching the outskirts of the city. At Pasadena is the picturesque multi-arched Colorado Street Bridge, the highest concrete bridge in the world upon completion in 1913. The Bicycle Route 66 ends at Santa Monica Pier where the road meets the ocean.

PREPARATION

While it takes about 32 days to cycle the entire route, give yourself 2 months to enjoy all the route has to offer. The best departure times are spring (mid April) and autumn (September), before the desert heats up, and the mountains start snowing. The Bicycle Route 66 is covered in a 6-map set, allowing cyclists to tour the whole thing or in sections. For more, visit www.adventurecycling.org.

Cyclists can explore at their own pace, taking in some iconic architecture, ghost towns, and historic communities from the route’s golden era. There is a diversity of landscapes, from flat prairie grasslands in Illinois to the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains, and the open deserts of the Southwest.

THE ROUTE

At the California border, cyclists will cross the Sitgreaves Pass in the rugged Black Mountains (with extremely tight switchbacks and steep drop-offs).

Riders do not need to be expert bikers to enjoy the route, and a standard touring bike (with flat-resistant and cushy wheels) would suit most folks.

Bicycle Route 66 follows the famous corridor via bike paths, country roads, as well as highways appropriate for cyclists, deviating from the original historic route in parts for safety.

While camping is possible, there are plenty of kitschy motels and diners where you can experience the true charm of Route 66.

National Monument. At Gallup is the Brickyard Bike Park, boasting 2 major networks of professionally-designed, curvy singletracks, including the flagship High Desert Trail.

CYCLING ON ROUTE 66 For old school fun, pop in at Carthage’s restored 66 Drive-In movie theatre (there are weekend screenings), or have a rootbeer float at Carl’s Drive-In in Brentwood. Kansas: The shortest portion of the route runs through this state, and attractions include the historic mining town of East Galenda and the well-preserved William’s Store. Oklahoma: The ride here is a gradual uphill climb, encompassing rolling landscapes with a variety of prairies until it reaches the Great Plains of the Texas Panhandle. Tulsa makes a good base; it’s a historic town with many Art Deco structures – including Campbell Hotel – that were built during the Oil Boom in the 1920s and 1930s. Texas: With dirt farm roads, grain eleva-

tors and windmills, this portion of the route hits historic Shamrock (home to the Art Deco-style Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café), and Amarillo with its U.S. Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District that contains a collection of architecture from the Spanish Revival, Art Deco, and Art Moderne era. New Mexico: The cycle route is dotted with traditional pueblos (at Santo Domingo and Laguna) and passes Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Parts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are Native American lands, including Nations and Reservations, where permission must be granted to photograph some sites. Iconic overnight options include Blue Swallow Motel and El Rancho Hotel. Cyclists will cross the Continental Divide as they pedal through the El Malpais


SPORTS+TRAVEL: OUTFITTERS SECTION


Sports+Travel Singapore | Issue 62  

Eco Issue | Mar/Apr 2015 Singapore's free adventure travel magazine! www.sportsandtravelonline.com

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you