Schlagwort-Archive: waterfall

Savaii – underwhelmed and overwhelmed

Savaii – everyone I met beforehand told me: this is the real Samoa, this is where you need to go. It’s much more beautiful than Upolu. Well… so I went. In hindsight, I should have stayed longer somewhere on Upolu at a beach location in the West. But I just wanted to see what the hype was all about and be sure to have enough time for Savaii in case I really loved it there. The ferry ride was quick and beautiful, sailing across the turquoise lagoon separating the two islands.

IMG_4973 (Small)From the pier, I hopped on a bus to Manase where I found my next accommodation at the welcoming Regina Beach Fales. The owners were incredibly friendly and sweet and food was amazing! The best local food I had had since Pepele Lodge in the Solomon Islands! The beach in front of the accommodation wasn’t as broad and pretty as on Upolu, but nice enough.

One day I just relaxed and snorkelled a bit in front of the beach fales, and the owners gave me a ride to the lava fields. It was cool to see, especially the church buried in lava – but not as special as expected. Going back to Manase proved difficult as for once hitchhiking didn’t work out well. No-one picked me up, can you imagine!? Lol. Luckily one of the few busses drove past at one point and I hopped on. It showed me though that Savaii is not as easy as Upolu and I made my mind up to rent a scooter to see the rest of Savaii.

So next morning, I hitchhiked (after missing the last bus because it came 20 min too early) to Asaga where the motorbike rental is located. Someone gave me the tip that they also rent out rooms, and since I was a bit sick of beach fales, I decided to stay there. Good decision! The owner is a sweet lady and stuffed me with delicious food over the next few days. And I finally got some good night’s sleep again! But back to my day on the motorbike…

This was a really good decision! I loved driving around Savaii – the roads are new and pretty traffic-free, and it’s just so beautiful! The villages, the green tropical plants everywhere, the black lava rocks… my first stop was at the Afu Aau waterfall – a nice one with a pool that you can swim in.

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Then I drove further along the coast until I reached the Alofaaga blowholes. While I had just seen some cool blowholes in Tonga, these were really impressive! The coast is just really picturesque and the blowholes fitted nicely in there.

I then made the decision to drive around the whole island, a tough 200 km ride which I wouldn’t really recommend to anyone on a normal scooter. But I just really wanted to see Falealupo peninsula and the beach there – and since it’s exactly at the opposite side of the island as Asaga, that meant I just had to finish the circle. Was it worth It? Yes, because the beach is a real stunner!! One of the best ones in whole Samoa.

On the other hand, the drive took the whole day and was pretty exhausting. I rather should have left my big backpack in Asaga and prepared a small one just for a night in Falealupo. It would have been great to spend the afternoon on this amazing beach and then do the other half of the island next day. But well… Like this I had to continue further along the North coast back to Asaga. It wasn’t a bad drive – not at all! Beautiful landscapes, turquoise water bays and lava fields… I loved it!

Next day was Sunday, and since Samoa is very religious, there wasn’t much going on. I went to church with our host and a Vietnamese girl who was staying there as well. Then we just chilled for most of the day – we were not allowed to walk around in the village or go swimming until mid-afternoon. A relaxing day with lots of good food!

And that was it for Savaii. On Monday, I took the ferry back to Upolu and then the bus to Apia, the capital of Samoa. I found Savaii pretty yet a bit underwhelming in terms of sights, but the overwhelming friendliness of the locals more than made up for it!

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Upolu: Chasing waterfalls…and more!

I landed in Samoa the evening before my birthday – and treated myself to an expensive airport pickup, so that I could wake up next day on a beautiful beach and start the day by hearing the waves breaking only meters from my beach fale. Well, judge for yourself, but I’d say my plan worked out pretty well!

Beach fales are the typical budget accommodation option in Samoa and basically open huts where instead of walls you can let down natural leave curtains. It’s nice and airy on hot days, but when it’s windy, they are flapping in the wind and you basically don’t have any privacy. I had a kind of hate-love relationship with beach fales during my time in Samoa. I liked that they were right on the beach and the basic principle of them. However, I never slept really well, worrying about my valuables and feeling exposed with people being able to watch me sleep if they wanted to.

On my birthday, I enjoyed the beach in front of my accommodation and hitchhiked to Lalomanu beach – supposedly the most beautiful beach on Samoa. However, I actually preferred the one right where I woke up – in front of FaoFao Beach Fales. Both are awesome though, judge for yourselves… Lalomanu beach:

„My“ beach:

 

A good relaxing day all in all! Lots of sunshine, some snorkelling, swimming and reading. I guess I can’t complain about getting a year older if it happens like this…

On my second day in Samoa, I decided to try to hitchhike to a couple of sights nearby since it had worked so well the day before with hitching to Lalomanu and back. And again: super easy! Everyone just stops and takes you if they can. Seriously, I’ve had people stopping and apologizing that they cannot take me because they were going somewhere else, and people dropping me off at exactly where I needed to be even though their house was a couple of kilometres earlier already! Samoans are sooo friendly and helpful!!

My first stop was the famous To Sua Ocean Trench which certainly lived up to its name and fame! It’s basically a sinkhole which is fed by water from the ocean. A very very pretty sinkhole! You can climb down a steep ladder and go for a swim, which of course I did. The water is nice and cool and super clear!

What’s more, there are some really nice views of the coastline from the gardens around the sinkhole, and some cool lava rock pools. Definitely a good place to spend an hour or two!

Later, I hitchhiked further to the So’poaga Falls, where a friendly couple from New Zealand dropped me. You can’t get close to the waterfall, but man…is that an amazing viewpoint! The water cascades down steeply surrounded by lush green vegetation. Almost too kitschy to be real! 😉

Since I liked this waterfall so much, I decided to hitchhike further to the Fuipisia Falls. Again, it was a viewpoint and another cool one! This time I was much closer to the waterfall and able to walk to the top of it. Really nice!

Even though it was early afternoon only, I decided to call it a day when I found a ride all the way back to my accommodation. You shouldn’t chance your luck and I had seen so many cool things already today!

I then said goodbye to Upolu for a bit and made my way to the island of Savaii for a few days…to return to Upolu again for the last couple of days when I decided to stay in Apia for practical reasons: many sights are close to Apia and reachable by bus from there and also the scooter rental is located in the capital only. On my first day back in town, I took a bus to the Piula Cave Pool. Unfortunately it was a bit grey and rainy that morning, but it was still a pretty sight and nice to swim in. There’s lots of big fish and even and eel in there, so make sure to take mask and snorkel!

I then took another bus back and further up to Mt Vaea National Reserve from where you have good views over the city and harbour after a short but sweaty hike.

Next day, I rented a scooter for another cool day of exploring the island on my own. I had quite a program, but managed it all (of course… it’s all about efficiency!). I took the Cross Island Road past Mt Vaea and made a brief stop at the Baha’i House of Worship which is quite pretty. I then pushed on to the Papapapai-tai Falls (what a name, right!?) – another really good waterfall viewpoint. I believe they’re one of the highest falls of Samoa.

Next up on the agenda was a coastal walk in the South of the island in the O Le Pupu-Pu’e National Park, leading me directly on the cliffs where the waves where crashing against to some nice viewpoints. Unfortunately it was a bit grey and rainy at that point (the whole morning had been sunny and luckily it got sunny again after), so it doesn’t come out as nicely on the photos.

Since I liked the waterfalls of Samoa so much, I couldn’t give the Togitogiga Falls a miss either. Here, you can get very close again and go for a swim in the pools. The water cascades down on black lava rocks which looks super cool!

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I felt like after all this sightseeing, I really deserved some chill time on a beach, so I made my way to Matavera beach – which in hindsight I consider to be maybe the prettiest beach of Samoa. The sand is as white as possible, the water an inviting turquoise surrounded by black lava rocks, with photogenic palm trees just calling at your camera to go crazy. So that’s what I did! And then I tested it all of course… the water, the soft white sand – it was amazing!!

After a bit, I decided to get going again – after all I still had quite some driving to do to get myself back to Apia. I did a brief detour to Return to Paradise Beach (famous from a movie) but since it now belongs to a fancy resort, the entrance fee was too high for me for just a short photo stop. So I saw the beaches just before, but not the real deal! 😉 Oh well, on Google it looks just the same as Matareva Beach – and that one is only 5 Tala entry.

That’s something I don’t like about Samoa: pretty much every beach, viewpoint, waterfall, you name it…belongs to someone who charges an entry fee for it. All land is privately owned and ok, I understand locals want to make a bit of money, but sometimes the fees are a bit unreasonable and also, if you’re traveling on a budget – it quickly adds up. But nothing you can do about it if you want to see the main sights!

I took a different road across the island back to Apia and passed by the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks. I had originally planned to go here by bus one of the next days, but figured if I already have the scooter and still a little bit of time… then why not go for it! To be honest, the sliding rocks were not as cool for me as I had imagined. Ok, so I didn’t try the actual sliding anymore since I was by myself and didn’t feel like changing into my bikini again. But it didn’t look as cool as on the pictures I had seen. The nicer part was the view from up here over Apia – actually better than from Mt Vaea! All in all, another great day on the scooter…

Then I had two days left in Apia where I didn’t have too much planned anymore. I had been almost too efficient during the last days, but there were of course some things left to do and see still: one morning I spent at the tourist information center which offers free cultural shows almost every day. You get to see some local handicraft such as wood carving and the making of cloth items (pictures, sarongs) as well as watch a traditional food preparation where food items are placed on hot stones, then covered with lots of leaves and therefore cooked in this oven.

This food was later served to us as a lunch snack and tasted quite good! We were also able to watch a guy getting a typical Samoan tattoo – no pictures allowed, but it looked rather painful. And while we were having lunch (from plates we made out of palm leaves before), there was a group of dancers entertaining us. They were awesome!! Especially the guys. The women didn’t have to move that much.

A really really cool 3h experience offered by the tourist information for free to anyone who shows up! Would have been good to do this on one of my first days, as they explained a lot about Samoan culture as well throughout the time.

Afterwards, I walked a bit through Apia city and explored it’s few sights… Mainly churches, some markets and of course the colourful Samoan busses! They reminded me a bit of the chicken busses in Guatemala, just that these are wooden which certainly adds to the style.

As a last thing to see in Samoa, I decided to visit the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve to go snorkelling. Again, another positive surprise! So far in Samoa, the snorkelling had never been great – but this was really cool! Unfortunately I forgot to take my underwater camera, so once more you either need to believe me or go check it out yourself. It was quite tough though snorkelling out to the reef without fins against quite some current – but very much worth it and a good end to an incredible time in Samoa!

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Dalat – a nice surprise in the mountains

15.01.-16.01.2018 Dalat

From Can Tho we took the night bus to Dalat. It was our first experience with a Vietnamese sleeper bus. I must admit when we first got on the bus, we were all a bit shocked. Yes, there are little „beds“ for everyone but they are made for people Asian size with no hand luggage. Fitting us and our backpacks into the little space was a challenge. At one point I found a rather comfy position though and was able to sleep quite a bit.

Way too early in the morning we arrived in Dalat, took the shuttle to our hotel where luckily one room was ready for early check-in, so we were able to drop off our stuff and take a shower before heading off on our rental scooters. My sister and I put our parents on the back and off we were! Destination: Elephant Falls. It was a long drive, but quite a nice one with a viewpoint along the way and fortunately not a lot of traffic since we’re far from being expert drivers.

The falls themselves were spectacular and exceeded my expectations by far. It’s quite a climb to get to the different viewpoints and the bottom of the falls from where you have the most amazing view. Weather was nicely sunny – in fact a little too hot almost. We had expected cooler temperatures in Dalat but that wasn’t really the case.

After a refreshing fruit shake, we headed back to Dalat with a short stop at the Chua Van Duc pagoda which was nice but at this stage we’re getting a bit done with pagodas.
We also intended to stop by Cam Ly waterfall but couldn’t find it right away and then gave up. We did find a nice coffee place instead, as alternative program, with lot of funny and weird little sculptures clustered around the garden.

My dad and I continued our sightseeing a little longer afterwards, visiting the Linh Son pagoda in the city centre and driving all the way around the big city lake Xuan Huong – quite a peaceful drive.

For the next day, we had booked a private driver which was cheaper than paying for 4 people to join on one of the organised tours, plus these tours didn’t appeal to us anyways (too many program points like „coffee farm“, „flower garden“, „xyz showroom“ etc.). Once again we were very lucky with our driver Chup who spoke decent English, explained us a lot and was overall just really helpful and kind. We had agreed on the route before, and which places to visit, but other than that it was our choice how long we wanted to stay in each place.

First we drove to the cable car at Robin Hill to take the same to Truc Lam Zen pagoda near Tuyen Lam lake where Chup was already waiting for us.  He showed us around a bit in the pagoda and meditation center grounds. We had not originally planned to visit this pagoda but it turned out to be really pretty – especially the setting in beautiful flower gardens. From the pagoda you can take some long stairs down to the lake and walk around the shore for a bit. Renting a boat is also an option but since the sun was burning down again, we gave that a miss.

Our next stop were the Datanla Falls nearby. The upper part of the falls is full of Asian tourists engaging in photo shoots but it gets more quiet the further down the trail you head. And DO go down all the way – even if it means paying for an elevator and a little jungle cable car! The best view of the fall is all the way from the bottom. I guess many people are not even aware that there is a 2nd fall after the first one which you reach rather quickly from the parking lot. We also took the „roller coaster“ but only to go up unfortunately. The price is more worth it if you buy a return ticket from the beginning though. It took quite a while to visit all of the falls, so don’t underestimate the time you need.

A bit of a longer drive brought us to the Linh Phuoc pagoda afterwards. We were at first a bit reluctant to put another pagoda into our tour program but this one looked very pretty on the pictures we saw – and we were not disappointed!! In my opinion, this pagoda is a must see when you’re in Dalat and so far the most beautiful pagoda of Vietnam! Again, don’t underestimate the time you need to see all of it since there are multiple buildings and towers you can (and should) climb. Everywhere you look, there’s new things you discover. Little pieces of porcelain are placed into mosaics and dragons and other figures are staring at you from every corner. We were totally overwhelmed and didn’t know where to look first!

There’s also a little canteen among the pagoda buildings where our driver brought us for cheap and delicious „com chay“ (vegetable rice).

Re-energized, we then made our way to the old railway station of Dalat. The station by itself is not that interesting but there’s an old wooden train leaving from here and also some museum trains to look at. In the meanwhile there was a big tropical downpour happening so we were glad to be under the roof of the station.

Unfortunately our last stop of the day was mainly outside and the rain didn’t stop quickly enough. The „Crazy House“ is a house built a bit similar to the styles of Dalí or Hundertwasser. There’s lots to explore and it’s a bit of a labyrinth, with little bridges connecting parts of the houses. It’s also a hotel where you can stay but seeing the masses of tourists I was glad we had picked a „normal“ hotel. This was the end of our tour and of a great day with lots and lots of different impressions! Also it meant our time in Dalat had come to an end. It’s definitely a city that I enjoyed a lot – more than expected – and so far it would be my choice of city if I were to stay for a longer period of time in Vietnam.