Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and its largest port. Although the ranking has declined steadily over the last few years, Kaohsiung is still the world’s sixth largest cargo-container seaport. The city has high concentrations of heavy industry, including steel production, shipbuilding, and other exports that have led to Kaohsiung’s relatively high levels of air pollution (though the situation has improved substantially in recent years). Unlike Taipei, Kaohsiung is a planned city with wide streets and slightly less traffic congestion than the capital. In recent years the city has made great strides in transforming itself from a primarily industrial city into a modern Asian metropolis, and several areas of the city, such as along the banks of the Love River ,have benefited from major beautification projects under the tenure of former mayor Frank Hsieh. The city is often known as Taiwan’s “Harbor Capital” because of its close connection and heavy reliance on the ocean and maritime transportation.
Chalong Bay situated a short distance to the south of Phuket Town (approx 7km) is the nerve centre for island hopping, diving, snorkelling and sea fishing tours from Phuket. This bustling hive of activity is the gateway to the islands, dive sites and natural movie sets of the Andaman coast and everyday hundreds of boats filled with tourists leave the bay to explore some of the most spectacular coastline and marine life in the world. The possibilities are staggering, but popular itineraries include tours featuring; Phi Phi Lei (Maya Bay), the fictional setting for the 1994 blockbuster film The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and James Bond Island, instantly recognisable to those of you that remember Roger Moore duelling with arch villain Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. Whilst it is undoubtedly the wonders available out in the azure seas that entice the tourists, especially the backpacker crowd, there are many activities to be experienced inland close by to Chalong that make this the epicentre for any smart traveller’s trip to Phuket Island.
It would be a misconception to assume the only fun to be had at Chalong leaves from the main pier. In fact, Chalong boasts some of the finest activities on the island and many of these are conveniently located in one place at the Kinnaree Entertainment Complex, which occupy the same grounds as the Phuket Shooting Range. Located just west of Chalong circle on the road to Kata Beach, the Kinaree Entertainment Complex houses the Phuket Monkey School, Cobra Show and Snake Farm which offer daily shows that will delight and entertain the whole family. The Phuket Shooting range actually offers more than just it’s impressive shooting range and activities include; paintballing, archery, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) rides amidst the islands stunning mountain scenery, Clay pigeon shooting and Airsoft BB guns activities (similar to paintballing minus the paint).
Phuket Zoo is close by to Chalong and offers an experience like no other. With beautifully landscaped scenery it is home to a stunning array of animals, wildlife and birds and has daily monkey, elephant and crocodile shows. The Aquarium is particularly noteworthy for its spectacular entrance, where visitors have to walk through a giant crocodile’s mouth to get to the wonders within. Other activities include; a round of golf at the Phunaka Golf Course & Golf Academy on a spectacular floodlit 9-hole course, Elephant Trekking in the hills above Chalong, Muay Thai boxing Shows and training and Thai cookery classes.
When the diving, fishing and island-hopping boats return to the bay of Chalong in the evening, the nightlife really starts to kick off. The action is mostly located around the waterfront and from Chalong Circle stretching along Chalong Pier Road. There are a host of bars and restaurants with a laid back, friendly atmosphere offering good Thai and international cuisine. For a colourful, lively scene visit the bars along Chalong Pier Road, which has a similar atmosphere to that which you will find in many of the busy resorts in Phuket such as Patong and Karon. Many of the bars have beautiful hostesses, stay open late, have pool tables and show major sports events. A quality dining option close to Chalong Circle along the Kata Road is the Green Man Pub. This unique bar and restaurant, in the style of a traditional Tudor English country pub, is especially popular on a Sunday when they serve up a famous English Sunday Roast.
Next Andaman Islands
Langkawi Island is one of South East Asia’s best kept secrets. Located at the confluence of the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea off Malaysia’s northwest coast near the maritime border with Thailand, Langkawi comprises of 99 islands mostly covered in untouched rainforest. Its beaches are some of the region’s best and only three of the islands have been developed. While few buildings rise above the height of the beachside coconut trees, excellent infrastructure including an international airport, cruise liner berth and various well-managed tourist attractions are in place. In Langkawi it’s possible to relax and do absolutely nothing. However, for those who love nature and adventure, Langkawi offers sailing, watersports, jungle treks, diving, mangrove excursions, bird watching, fishing, mountain climbing, thrilling journeys into the rainforest canopy and visits to local villages and farms.
Where is Koh Lipe?
Koh Lipe is a small island in the Andaman Sea (that’s the Phuket side of Thailand) in the South near the Thai-Malay border. Koh Lipe is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, Thailand’s largest marine park. When we say small, we mean really small. Koh Lipe is about 3.5km by 2.5km and there are only a couple of thousand rooms on the whole island. This of course is part of its attraction, small, remote, surrounded by uninhabited islands and breathtaking beauty. There aren’t many places in Thailand which offer the same attractions.
Getting To Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is 60km from the nearest Thai port, Pak Bara, and 40km from Langkawi.. The easiest way to get to Koh Lipe is from either Pak Bara or Langkawi, but during the high season these are not the only ways to get here. The high season is from early November to late April and there are speed boats and ferries connecting Koh Lipe with all the islands and areas up and down the coast including Koh Lanta, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket.
During the low season, from May to the end of October, the only direct boats to Koh Lipe are from Pak Bara. To get to Koh Lipe from Langkawi you can travel via Satun to Pak Bara and catch a speed boat to Koh Lipe.
The journey between Pak Bara and Koh Lipe takes about 90 minutes direct, but during the season some boats stop at Tarutao or other islands along the way making for a longer journey. Make sure you take some bottled water with you
Miri ~ Sarawak
Miri is the 2nd largest city in Sarawak and has a population of 300,000 people with a mixture of Chinese, indigineous tribes who have moved down from their native lands that have been logged, and Malays (mostly immigrated to Miri by way of government postings or from forefathers emigrating from Brunei).
Miri is Sarawak and Malaysia’s first Oil producing area. Oil was first officially recorded in 1882 by Claude Champion de Crespigny, the British Resident of the Baram district in Sarawak. The locals had been using this black substance long before, collecting it for medicinal use, for waterproofing of boats and for lighting oil lamps. It was not until 1910 when the first oil company moved in to exploit its wealth.
Sarawak Shell were given the sole rights to mining oil in Miri until 1954 when the onshore oilfields dried out and exploration turned to the rich oil wells located in the seedbeds. Today, the oldest Oil Well in Miri is a reminder of the humble beginnings of Sarawak and more appropriately, Malaysia’s dependence on this commodity that has made the country what it is. The oil well is affectionately called ‘The Grand Old Lady’ and is located on Canada Hill. According to local myth, the hill is named such because of a Canadian who relocated in the early years as a recruitment manager, recruiting local and foreign workers as hands at the oil wells that quickly sprung up around the area.
After a productive run with an estimated 660,000 barrels of oil drawn from the oil well, The Grand Old Lady was shut down in 1972. Next to the Grand Old Lady, the Miri Petroleum Science Museum exhibits the history and technicalities of the industry. Miri has not much else to do and so a visit to this museum would be pretty much the highlight of your stay. Imagine highlighting Curtin University as a major tourist destination in the ‘Visit Miri brochure’, that’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel!
For those interested in parks and gardens, there are a total of 14 such locations around Miri locale. Miri also has their share of music festivals with its International Jazz Festival held May annually.
The other interesting place of visit is the tamu market called Tamu Muhibbah. It’s open daily and is located just a stone’s throw from the Tourist Information Centre. There are 2 sections to the market: the wet section where local and imported vegetable and meat produce are sold and the dry section where you can get local fruits like Buah Salak, durian, lime on sale here. Hill rice from Bario and Ba’Kelalan is also on sale here. The indigenous people bring their produce from the hills and jungles to sell here. However, it’s certainly more noticeable that compared to a decade ago, the variety in jungle produce has reduced greatly. The local people laments that it is not due to the weather conditions (Miri has been encountering strange weather conditions in recent years) but because there really isn’t much of a jungle for them to go to.
Miri is more like a transit point for most tourists or travellers. From this city, travel out to :
Lambir Hills National Park, Niah National Park and Caves, Mulu National Park, Ulu Baram Area, Bario and Ba’Kelalan and Loagan Bunut National Park.
Some 45minutes drive away from the city centre will take you to the bridge connecting Miri with Brunei.
Next .back to Singapore
Tawau is a city on the southern coast of Sabah, very close to the border to Indonesia. It dates back to the 1890s, when the area was first settled, and quickly developed into a centre for the export of agricultural products of the region. Nowadays Tawau is the world’s third largest producer of cocoa after the Ivory Coast and Ghana. While Tawau is a pleasant town and has a large number of hotels and restaurants, it does not offer much in term of tourist attractions. Most notable is the Al-Kauthar mosque, completed in 2004. The airport of Tawau, which has direct connections to KL, is the closest airport to Semporna and the Malaysian Celebes sea islands.
Mabul is a small island off the south-eastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia. The island has been a fishing village since 1970s. Then in 1990s, it first became popular to divers due to its proximity to Sipadan island.
Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life anywhere in the world. Flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus and bobtail squids are just a few of the numerous types of cephalopods to be found on Mabul’s reef. The sight of harlequin shrimp feeding on sea stars and boxer crabs waving their tiny anemone pom-poms are just a small example of the endless species of crustaceans. Many types of gobies can be found including the spike-fin goby, black sail-fin goby and metallic shrimp goby. Frogfish are everywhere. Giant, painted and clown frogfish are all regularly seen. Moray eels and snake eels of many types can be seen along with almost the whole scorpionfish family. It would be quicker to to list the species not found at Mabul-crazy critters are in abundance at this magical macro site!
Sipadan is a legend in diving circles and with good reason. It is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, one of the richest marine habitats in the world; where over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been identified. Apart from its supreme location, the island and the dive sites that surround it are filled with spectacular natural formations such as a 600m reef wall and a labyrinth of underwater limestone caves, where many turtles have met their doom.
The tiny island can be circled on foot in less than half an hour, but offers at least nine established dive sites with enchanting names like Hanging Garden, Turtle patch, White-tip Avenue, Coral Garden and Barracuda point.
Although diving is the main attraction of Sipadan, non-divers are welcome to join the diving boats to go snorkelling in Sipadan. Those that want to start exploring the depths can even complete a four day PADI diving course or a one day Discover Scuba Diving course, offered by all the dive centres on the island.
Sentosa Island is not called ‘Asia’s Favourite Playground’ for nothing. Sentosa, which means ‘peace and tranquility’ in Malay, is a man-made island located south of the Singapore’s city centre. Visited by millions of people every year, the popular resort is home to a variety of themed attractions, rainforests, stunning beaches, a yacht marina and posh residences. It is hard to believe that before Sentosa became Singapore’s most popular island resort getaway it was a fortress of the British forces in the 19th century. It was only in 1967 that the island was returned to the government and turned it into a holiday resort.
Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the rugged tropical island of New Guinea(which it shares with the Indonesian territory of Irian Jaya) as well as numerous smaller islands and atolls in the Pacific. The central part of the island rises into a wide ridge of mountains known as the Highlands, a territory that is so densely forested and topographically forbidding that the island’s local peoples remained isolated from each other for millennia. The coastline is liberally endowed with spectacular coral reefs, giving the country an international reputation for scuba diving. The smaller island groups of Papua New Guinea include the Bismarck Archipelago, New Britain, New Ireland and the North Solomons. Some of these islands are volcanic, with dramatic mountain ranges, and all are relatively undeveloped.
Nearly 85 percent of the main island is carpeted with tropical rain forest, containing vegetation that is a combination of Asian and Australian species. The country is also home to an impressive variety of exotic birds, including virtually all of the known species of birds of paradise, and it is blessed with more kinds of orchids than any other country.
Papua New Guinea’s climate is tropical, as one would expect in a country located just south of the Equator. December to March is the wet season, although occasional rain falls year-round. While Port Moresby, the capital, and other towns on the coast are quite hot in the summer months, temperatures are considerable cooler in the Highlands. July, August, and September are the best months for trekking vacations.