Saturday, January 21, 2017

Himalaya Airlines Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur Flights

Himalaya Airlines Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur Flights

Come February 10, 2017, Himalaya Airlines Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur flights will be launched and the airline will fly five weekly flights. This now makes the number of airlines plying this route to six, including Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia X, Malindo Air and Nepal Airlines who currently fly direct between Kathmandu and Kuala Lumpur.  

According to Himalaya Airlines, a round-trip ticket on the flight from Kathmandu (Flight H9 890) starts at Rs 25,375 (RM 1656.00), while the  Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu (Flight H9 891) round trip, flight ticket prices will start at RM 928.00 and an early morning flight where passengers will arrive Kathmandu at about 9.40 AM. The airline has also appointed Carnival Travel and My Golden Lion Aviation as its General Sales Agents (GSA) for Malaysia and Myanmar respectively.

Himalaya Airlines Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur Flight Timings
Flight No.
Routing
Departure
Arrival
Day of the week
H9 890
KTM-KUL
11:00 PM
06:05 AM
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun
H9 891
KUL-KTM
07:05 AM
09: 40 AM
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat
Vice President for Administration Vijay Shrestha also quoted that the launch of new destinations is part of Himalaya’s commitment to connect Nepal directly with Asia Pacific countries and boost tourism as well as trade opportunities. The airline received its first Airbus A320-214 aircraft in March of 2016 and at the end of January 2017, they will be receiving another similar aircraft which will be fitted with 150 economy seats and eight business class seats. An additional two similar aircraft are also being added at the end of 2017. For more information, visit the official Himalaya Airlines Website
Himalaya Airlines new Airbus A320-214. Photo from www.nepalmountainnews.com. 
Himalaya Airlines, is a Nepal-China joint venture, established in August 2014. Himalaya Airlines, a full service carrier, started its scheduled flights operations from May 31, 2016 flying directly to Doha, Qatar and to Colombo, Sri Lanka on October 1, 2016.

Himalaya Airlines also plans to link various Asian and Middle Eastern cities initially and also to acquire 15 Airbus aircraft, including long-haul A330 wide body jets. The company plans to expand operations to Japan, Korea, Australia, America and Europe by 2022. For now, the new launch of the Himalaya Airlines Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur flights will be something that many local and international travelers will look forward too, especially with the promotion prices offered. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Malindo Air KK to Japan Flights


Good news for Sabahans as hopefully by mid year, there will be Malindo Air KK to Japan flights. This plan to have the direct flights to Japan will benefit both countries as Kota Kinabalu is also one of the top destinations in Malaysia that Japanese prefer to visit. This news was also announced officially by the Sabah State Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming at the Japan Week in Kota Kinabalu. 

Prior to this, Malindo Air has already been doing charter flights from Tokyo to Kota Kinabalu and the response has been quite good. One of the main reasons for the Sabah charter flights is that Japanese tourist prefer not to transit and fly directly. Sabah has also seen a total of almost 23,000 Japanese visitors to the state in 2016. 

Apart from the mainstream news of having Malindo Air KK to Japan flights, the airline has not confirmed anything to date. Recently on the 17th of January, Malindo Air launched their KL Sentral Check In Counter and also the Malindo Air Ticketing Office at KL Sentral. During the launching, the CEO Mr. Chandran Rama Muthy announced that Malindo Air has been operating on its fourth year now and has expanded to 41 cities all over Asia and flew over 12 million passengers to date. They currently operate 42 aircraft, 16 ATR72-600 and 26 Boeing 737NG planes. 

As for the Malindo Air KK to Japan flights, there is no news on what type of aircraft they will be using but rest assured, once the news is out, we will surely share it here. Any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment form below. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Padar Island Video

Pulau Padar

This Padar Island Video was created for anyone who is planning to visit this beautiful place located in the Komodo Island National Park in Indonesia. The video shows visitors trekking up the hill and an overall view from the top of the hill. You can see the entire island plus Komodo Island is the far distance. Below is the Padar Island video which was shot and edited by me. 

Padar Island Video 

From the peak of Padar Island, you see two bays on each side where the beaches offer different sand textures. In total, there are three types of beaches found on Padar Island, a normal white sand beach, black sand beach and a pink sand beach. However, the journey here only allows you to trek up the hill for the majestic view and not to explore the entire island. It is said that Padar Island is one of the islands that you may find Komodo Dragons, but on my two trips here, I never did see any. 

To get here, most tours to Komodo Island will make a stop here for about an hour or two. This is usually after you have gone to Rinca Island or Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. But when you reach here, be prepared for a good work out up hill.

Trekking up Padar Island
I will be honest and say that it was not as easy as I thought it would be. The first time when I came here in 2015, I only made it up half way, and turned back down. This was simply because of the time limit we had plus my hiking stamina was not there. So, the second time I visited Padar Island in 2016, I was well prepared, physically and mentally.

If your health is not that good or have weak knees, I would strongly recommend you do not attempt hiking up Padar Island. However, if you are determined to do so, you can. Just keep in mind that you need to take a very slow trek up.
Photography Padar Island
Panoramic photo of Padar Island. Click to see full image. Photo taken with Oppo F1S.
How Long Does It Take To Trek Up Padar Island
In general, it takes about 30 minutes to trek up to the top of the hill. For those not in good shape, be prepared to spend at least 45 minutes to trek. When you reach the peak of Padar Island, you will be rewarded with the best view of the entire island. The first part is a basic trek and caution needs to be observed. Once you reach the halfway point, the trek becomes a little harder and here, you should be cautious as the path has a lot of gravel. I recommend using proper trekking shoes though I see many people using flip flops.

Along the trek, there will be areas where many people make a rest stop and also to see the view. The final stretch up will lead you through rock walks and more gravel. The trick is to take your time and be careful. Once you reach the peak, you will be rewarded with a magnificent overall view.

The story behind this place is that a few years ago, some people went up and took selfies and also stunning landscape photographs. They then posted it on social media where it became viral and eventually Indonesians wanted to also get this epic selfie photograph on Padar Island.

Another selfie trend is that many people brought scarves or flags to hold it up there and have the photo taken. On my last trip up in September 2016, I noticed middle aged locals struggling to make their way up. The best part - they were dressed as if they were going to an event. Basically, they dressed up to get that epic selfie shot once they reached the peak.
Padar Island Photo
View from the first hill of Padar Island, this is where the boats stop
Best Time To Visit Padar Island
I would suggest going first thing in the morning, before the general tourist start coming up. Plus the sky would be beautifully blue and overall clear. This is where you will get the best photographs and selfie photos. If you come during or after lunch, the sun would be blistering hot and there would be a lot of people. Plus you would have to wait your turn to take that epic shot and there would be tons of people all over your photo. So, fist thing in the morning, head up here, get your photo and then visit Rinca, Komodo Island and Pink Beach.

If you are planning to visit this place, do read about how to get to Komodo Island which I wrote about and also this article on what to do in Labuan Bajo if you are staying there. Also, the best way to get here is by taking a flight into Labuan Bajo, Flores. Note that you may require a minimum of three to four days here but I honestly recommend spending at least four to five days in Labuan Bajo to fully experience this place.

This trip was an initiative by Skyscanner Indonesia to promote some of the beautiful places around Indonesia. This is a personal travel blog site. The opinions and comments expressed here are purely my own. If you have any comments on my Padar Island Video, I would love to hear them and if you have any questions, please do ask in the comment form.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Things to do in Banyuwangi

Places to Visit in Banyuwangi

This article on things to do in Banyuwangi is written purely for those heading to the east most part of Jawa island and also those going to Mount Ijen. Banyuwangi is a small town on the coast of east Java where from the beach, you can see the island of Bali. 

Kawah Ijen or Mount Ijen is one of the most popular places here as many come here to trek up this beautiful mountain to see the world famous blue flame. Banyuwangi would be your closest city to the mountain and you would also be staying here at one of the resorts or hotels. For those staying here, I have create a list of things to do in Banyuwangi, especially if you have an extra day or two here. 

Things to do in Banyuwangi

1. Trek up Mount Ijen (Kawah Ijen)
Trekking Up Mount Ijen
At the top of Mount Ijen in Banyuwangi
Hands down, this is the number one things to do in Banyuwangi as the magnificent blue flame is one of two in the world where you can see it. The trek is a tiring one where you need to depart at midnight to reach the foot of the mountain by 2.30am and then trek up about an hour or so to catch the elusive blue flame just before sunrise. 

Don't let the word trek fool you as it is not an easy trek by the way. Well, if you are a regular trekker or hiker, this would be easy for you, and if you are like me, not 100% fit, it would be a tough trek up. The park guides will tell you that it is easy, one hour flat ground, one hour uphill. I thought it was that easy, but it was actually one hour uphill and one more hour of 45 degrees hill. So, one needs to be prepared for this trek up to Mount Ijen. 

There are many tour companies offering the full Mount Ijen Trekking Package, so you simply need to book your tour and make the arrangements with your guide. The 4x4 vehicles will pick you from the hotel and you will travel overland for about one hour to the foot of Mount Ijen, before your briefing and trek up. You can also read my other article on how to go to Mount Ijen

2. Visit the Baluran National Park 
Baluran National Park Banyuwangi
Animals seen at the Baluran National Park Savannah in Banyuwangi
Though this place is not well known to the western world, the Baluran National Park is actually quite a fascinating place. Why? Because they have a Savannah! Just like those in Africa, after about 30 minutes of driving deep into the national park, you will come across huge plains. The only thing missing are the lions, giraffes and elephants. However, at the Baluran Savannah, you will see the local sambar deer, buffaloes and macaques. 

This place is a must visit for anyone who loves national parks, outdoors and nature. To get here, you need to engage a tour company that will drive you there, explore the national park and then drive you back. In total, you can spend an average of 2-4 hours or even more here. Imagine, visiting a Savannah, but not in Africa, and in Indonesia.

3. Eat at Ikan Bakar Pesona, Banyuwangi
RM Ikan Bakar Pesona
The famous Ikan Bakar Pesona Restaurant in Banyuwangi
There is no doubt that good food is hard to find in Banyuwangi, and for visitors, the Ikan Bakar Pesona is one of the recommended places to experience local East Javanese food. Here, the restaurant caters to tourist and even large groups. A localised menu serving some amazing grilled fish complimented with an assortment of chicken, clams, vegetables and local appetisers. Most of the food is spicy therefore if you cannot take spicy, just let them know.

Ikan Bakar Pesona Banyuwangi
Address: Jl.Yos Sudarso No. 46, Klatak, Banyuwangi.
Tel: +62 852 5911 6399

4. Attend the Banyuwangi Jazz Festival 2017
Banyuwangi Jazz Festival 2017
The scene at the Ijen Summer Jazz Festival (Image from www.kompasonline.com)
There are two jazz festivals that take place in Banyuwangi, the Ijen Summer Jazz Festival and also the Banyuwangi Beach Jazz Festival. However, the Ijen Jazz Festival happens three times during the summer period in the months of July, August and September and you should check the dates out from the official Ijen Summer Jazz Website.

5. Kite and Wind Surfing Festival in Banyuwangi

For the adventure and extreme sports lovers, there is a lot of coastline along Banyuwangi and one one of the most popular places for this is at Tabuhan Island. It is here where you can experience Kiteboarding. The island is a flat water paradise that comes with beautiful white beaches and turquoise waters. For wind, the place offers steady winds of 20+ knots from May until the end of October. There are no resorts on the island as they are all located on the mainland along the coast.

6. Banyuwangi Batik Festival 2017
Festival Batik Banyuwangi 2017
A model in Batik at the Banyuwangi Batik Festival (Image from www.banyuwangibagus.com)
If you are into traditional Indonesian fabrics, the Banyuwangi Batik Festival 2017 should be one of the interesting events to attend. The main highlight is a spectacular fashion show with the latest creations from designers all over Indonesia. However, the batik design from Banyuwangi is very unique with leafy designs. However, the trade mark pattern is called the Gajah Oling and in total, there are over 20 patterns to the Banyuwangi Batik.

Note that each district around Indonesia has their own batik designs and the Banyuwangi Batik is one of the special ones. If you miss the batik festival here, you can also find them at some local batik boutiques around Banyuwangi city.

7. Surfing at Pulau Merah Beach
Pulau Merah Banyuwangi
Some of the massive waves at Pulau Merah in Banyuwangi (Image from www.planetsurfonline.com)
Among some of the popular surfing spots in Banyuwangi, Pulau Merah Beach or Red Island Beach which is around 67 kilometers  or three hours away from the city. Here, waves up to three or four meters are common and beautiful barrels the length of 300-400 meters long. This attracts local and international surfers during the surf season and the beach is suitable for beginner surfers as well. If you are a surf traveler, this is one of the places to check out in Banyuwangi and is also close to Bali.

Best time to visit Pulau Merah Beach is from April to September and the comparison with Bali is that surfing at Pulau Merah Beach is much more peaceful and the waves are bigger. It is also recommended to rent a car or bike and find your way here. Professional surfers should check out Plengkung Beach and G-Land as these two places are well known too. There are basic hotels, restaurants and a surf school here.

8. Stay at the Ketapang Indah Hotel in Banyuwangi
Hotel Ketapang Indah Banyuwangi
The landscape of the Ketapang Indah Hotel in Banyuwangi
One of the nicer places to stay is at the Ketapang Indah Hotel, which is actually a seaside resort with a beautiful view of Bali Island across the Bali Straits. This hotel offers chalet units in a beautifully landscaped garden atmosphere. Many stay here as this is one of the better accommodations before heading up to Mount Ijen. The Ketapang Indah Hotel also offers a spa and swimming pool and is away from the main city area. In the evenings, just take a short walk to the beach and catch the beautiful sunset behind Bali or you can simply wander around the lush manicured gardens.

How To Go To Banyuwangi

Banyuwangi Food Makan
The famous Ikan Bakar from Banyuwangi
To get to Banyuwangi, you need to fly to the Belimbingsari Airport or Banyuwangi Airport where local airlines fly here from larger cities around Indonesia. You can also get here from Bali by taking the ferry from Gilimanuk in the west coast of Bali Island to Banyuwangi.

The above list is create by me and is part of the Wonderful Indonesia tourism campaign for Indonesia Tourism, where Banyuwangi was one of the beautiful destinations that I visited in Indonesia.

The opinions are purely of my own and not of any tourism board. For more detailed information on the Banyuwangi Festival 2017 and the many events that are taking place around here, you should visit the official Banyuwangi Tourism Website. If you have any questions about the things to do in Banyuwangi, do leave them below in the comment form and I will get back to you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Samalona Island

Pulau Samalona

One of the beautiful islands off Makassar is Samalona Island, which is only 30 minutes from the main city harbour and is literally covered in beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Who would know that a short boat trip out of Makassar lies a couple of beautiful islands including Samalona Island and Kodengareng Keke Island. 

Pulau Samalona as it is locally called, attracts hundreds of local visitors on a daily basis, and even more during the holidays. But for the international traveller, Samalona Island isn't even heard of, unless you have been asking around, but lately, more foreign visitors have been coming here. The beauty about this island is that it houses a lighthouse, some very basic chalets and a couple of very local restaurants for the tourist. So, what is there to do at Samalona Island? Read below. 
Gambar Samalona
One of the welcome signs at Samalona Island
Sunbathing at Samalona Island

Most island tours in Makassar will bring you to both Samalona and Kodengareng Keke Island which is just another 15 minutes away. Or you can just opt for one of the islands. A majority of visitors prefer to just come here for a beach holiday to suntan, snorkel, picnic or just have a relaxed time. The facilities are basic, toilets, food and drinks but tour operators will bring the required equipment for the guests. Book your tours from Makassar City. 

Diving at Samalona Island

The island is actually formed from a cluster of circular coral island with an overall area of 2.34 hectares. The coral reefs of Samalona Island is inhabited by diverse marine tropical fish, large and small while the coral landscape is beautiful and suitable for beginners. For advance divers, there are eight wreck dive sites all over the islands here. However, you should engage a proper dive operator to do diving at Samalona Island. 
Samalona Island Beach
Samalona Island offers water sports like jet ski and flyboarding
Water Sports at Samalona Island

For those into water sports, there are companies that offer jet skiing, flyboarding and even the banana boat on Samalona Island. When I arrived here, I saw someone trying out the flyboard just out of the island and there were a couple of jet skis moving about in a safe area of the island. For those interested in this, yo need to arrange this with your tour operator before coming to the island. 
Gambar Pulau Samalona
A photo of Samalona Island taken from the boat
Photography at Samalona Island

Well, as today's generation is very active on social media, many beginners or even professionals come here to do island photography. Most of the photographers or videographers will bring their drones to do an areal video of Samalona Island as the island is really small. Apart from that, wedding photography and even portrait photography is becoming popular here. Just like the main photo in this article, I took it from the boat before reaching the island. 
Jeti Samalona
Visitors entering Samalona Island
Samalona Island Homestay
Local homestays at Samalona Island
How To Go To Samalona Island

Samalona Island is about 6 kilometers from Makassar City and it takes about 20-30 minutes to get here. The main departure would be from the Makassar Jetty Terminal in the town area. Chartered boats range from speed boats to larger fishing boats which can seat from 12 to 20 people. The best time to tour the island Samalona is from April to November.

The above are just some of the things to do at Samalona Island and on my trip here in September 2016 under Indonesia Tourism for the Wonderful Indonesia campaign, we visited Samalona Island, Kodengareng Keke Island and a few places around Makassar before heading to other beautiful parts of Indonesia. Follow my Malaysia Asia Instagram to see more photos of Indonesia.

Read this article about Makassar - Indonesia's Undiscovered Gem which was written by me in 2016. For anyone visiting Makassar, don't forget to visit Samalona Island as you can do it in a day trip, or even visit both islands in one trip. All you need to do is get it arranged by a local tour company in Makassar.