Tag - limestone

Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia

Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia

Covering an area of more than 500 square kilometres, Gunug Mulu National Park is one of the most picturesque spots in the whole of eastern Malaysia. People travel here from all over the world in order to explore the cool caves that can be found here, while the national park is also famous for its impress sandstone and limestone mountains.

Those who enjoy exploring independently will have no trouble finding their way around, as the Hunter’s Trail is clearly marked and leads visitors for some 300 kilometres past a whole host of interesting flora and fauna. The trail also leads to the network of caves that can be found in the very heart of Gunung Mulu National Park.

Visitors who are unable to complete the 300-kilomtre circuit will find a number of pretty trails leading off of Hunter’s Trail, which offer access to other natural beauty spots. It is also possible to arrange for a guide, who will take intrepid travellers off of the beaten path to discover a whole host of hidden treasures.

One of the most popular caves is known as Clearwater Cave. This is believed to be the longest cave in Southeast Asia and the trip includes a boat ride up the Melinau River to the mouth of the cave.

Dee Cave is also popular as it contains the world’s largest cave passage and visitors to this interesting cave must first embark on a three kilometre walk through the jungle.

Khammouane, Laos

Khammouane, Laos
Khammouane, Laos
Khammouane, Laos

This very pretty Lao province is surrounded by amazing limestone formations, caves, rivers and dense jungle. The population of the province is around 260,000, with people coming from several different tribes such as Phuan, Tahoy, Kri and Katang. Most of the settlements in Khammouane province are small villages with collections of houses built from wood in the traditional Lao style. Everywhere you turn in Khammouane you are surrounded by intense natural beauty. Rich dark soil is covered with colourful plantations of rice, cabbage, sugar cane and bananas, while the Annamite mountain range is to the east and sparkling rivers, forests and caves are just waiting to be explored.

Khammouane province is easy to reach by bus from Vientiane in just five or six hours. There are plenty for visitors to do here such as kayaking, rafting, and caving. There are a large number of caves to explore and some of the highlights include the Buddha cave and Tham Nang Aen cave, while the Tham Xieng Lap caves are so pretty that they are worthy of a day trip by themselves.

Another great day trip destination is That Skihotabang, which is a large and interesting stupa commissioned by King Nanthasen in the 10th century.  The stupa was carefully restored in the 1950s and is an impressive sight.

The province’s capital is Tha Kek and this is a good place to stay for a night or two while you explore this lush and leafy area of Laos. While in Tha Khek take the time to explore the striking French colonial architecture in the city and sample the delicious range of Lao dishes, which is slightly different to those found in the rest of the country.

Nature lovers will want to explore the Nakai-Nam Theun Biodiversity Conservation Area, where you can spot a wonderful range of animals such as elephant, tigers, lemur and turtles. For excellent views over the jungle climb the Khammouane Limestone, which is a maze of limestone karst peaks.

Sayabouri, Laos

Sayabouri, Laos
Sayabouri, Laos
Sayabouri, Laos
Sayabouri, Laos

Also known as Sainyabuli, this pretty province is situated in the northwest of Laos, to the west of the Mekong River. Surrounded by limestone mountains, rice fields and forests, this is a great place to explore the countryside and experience the traditional Lao way of life.

Most travellers overlook Sayabouri on their way to nearby Luang Prabang and Vientiane, but peaceful Sayabouri is a great place to relax and discover the natural beauty of the areas such and waterfalls, caves and forests.

As you wander around Sayabouri you will discover a large number of pretty temples to explore, and Wat Ban Thin, Wat Ban Phapoun and Wat Ban Natonoy are probably the largest and most popular.

A great day trip destination is the Nam Phoun National Biodiversity Conservation Area. This enormous forest contains a large number of high peaks and climbing to the top provides excellent views of the region. The conservation area is also home to a large number of animals such as the Asiatic black bear, elephant, gibbon, Malayan sun bear and Sumatran rhino.

The people of Laos have been using elephants in the forestry industry for centuries and Sayabouri is one of the few places where you can still see this practice in action, which makes a refreshing change from viewing the mighty beast from behind bars.

A good time to visit Sayabouri is during the annual elephant festival, which is held over two or three days in the middle of February by the Lao PDR National Tourism Authority to encourage the use of elephants in tourism-related activities. There are around 200 elephants in Sayabouri and during  the festival more than fifty of them take part in a procession through the town. The festival is a vibrant affair with much drinking, dancing, fireworks and boat races.

More than 10,000 people travel from all over Laos to take part in the elephant festival and this is a great time to see Laos people at their best as they dress in traditional costumes, share food and drink.

Although Sayabouri is much quieter the rest of the year you will find a warm welcome whenever you arrive and there are some interesting places to sleep and eat.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos

The chilled out traveller’s hot spot of Vang Vieng is situated 120 miles from Vientiane. The journey takes just three of four hours by bus, while it is 150 miles to Luang Prabang. The best way to get around this picturesque village is to walk or hire a bicycle, but mopeds are also available for rent.

The tranquil atmosphere of Vang Vieng is very addictive. The landscape is incredibly serene and picturesque; beyond the sparkling river sheer limestone cliffs rise from a plateau of paddy fields. The river is spanned by a number of wooden bridges, which despite their flimsy appearance compliment the scenery perfectly.

Vang Vieng is a real haven for travellers and you will find a great assortment of cheap guesthouses dotted around the village. Many westerners arrive here and never leave, setting up their own bars and guesthouses alongside the many others owned by Lao people.

Chilling out is the main activity in Vang Vieng. Restaurants show Friends reruns throughout the day and night and there is plenty of good food and drink to go with it. International food is popular here and most restaurants offer a selection of backpack favourites such as pizza, pasta and spicy curry.

Walking through the scenic landscape is also popular and there are some other beautiful caves to explore on the far side of the river. Alternatively, if you fancy something a bit more energetic, why not hire an inner tube and float away down the river? Other popular activities in and around 
Vang Vieng include rafting, trekking and bicycle and motorbike trips.

Many of the families that live in Vang Vieng are self-sufficient and have chickens clucking in the garden in front of the house. As you explore the picturesque dusty lanes you will find puppies running around and fluffy yellow chicks cheep in the long grass, watched over by their clucking mother.

If you are feeling adventurous, take a walk through the village to the Vang Vieng Resort which is a large, picturesque garden with a large cable bridge spanning the river. At the far end of the park is the impressive cave of Tham Jang. Climb the 147 steps for enchanting views of the surrounding countryside and sparkling rocks inside. In the evening, sit beside the river and watch the sun slip behind the horizon with a beer or two.

Oudomsay, Laos

Oudomsay, Laos
Oudomsay, Laos
Oudomsay, Laos

Also known as Oudomxay or Oudômxa, this pretty province in the northwest of Laos was created in 1976 and is a good place to stop for a break if you are travelling between the temple town of Luang Prabang and Phonsaly or Sayabouri.

This is an area of intense natural beauty and the ideal place for trekking and to explore the neighbouring ethnic villages. Adventure sports such as rock climbing and rafting are popular here, while this is also a good place for cycling and bird watching.

Oudomsay is located close to the Chinese border and you will find an interesting mix of cultures as you wander through the province. There are 23 different ethnic minority groups living within the province, all with their own unique belief systems, customs, food and styles of dress.

A great way to spend a day is by trekking the 8 miles to the very pretty waterfall of Tad Lak Sip Et. Explore the Muong La District of Oudomsay and you will find an interesting range of temples, villages and hot spring located deep in the jungle.

One of Oudomsay’s main attractions is the Saymoungkhoune Rattana Stupa. This towering white stupa is a sacred spot and a great place to visit if you’re walking through the surrounding countryside. For spectacular views of the countryside, climb to the top of Phouxay Mountain. Gaze out at a rich vista of paddy fields, jungle, farmland and tiny villages before exploring the rest of the area.

A great place to try traditional Lao food is the Muang Xai market. People travel from all over the province to this large and vibrant market to sell their wares and this is a good place to stop eat and pick up and bargain or two.

An interesting way to travel through this region of Laos is to trek to Muang Say, then take a short bus or pickup truck ride to the picturesque village of Pakbeng. The mighty Mekong River flows from Pakbeng to Luang Prabang and the journey by large, wooden boat takes around five hours. As you sail slowly down the river you will pass limestone cliffs, mangroves and fishing villages.

Houa Phah, Laos

houa_phah_1
Houa Phah, Laos
Houa Phah, Laos

The former base for the Lao People’s Revolutionary Army, Houa Phan province is located in the northeast of Laos. Now free from trouble, this pretty province is surrounded by natural beauty such as caves, waterfalls, mountains and rich rice fields.

Few tourists step off the tourist trail long enough to experience Houa Phah’s gentle charms, yet there are wonderful rewards in store for those who make the effort. Pristine emerald green forests and limestone mountains are just waiting to be explored and there is a good variety of wildlife to spot.

There are more than 100 caves located in Houa Phanh. Available in all shapes and sizes, visiting the caves is an interesting experience and also a good way to keep cool. Perhaps the most famous of all the caves is Tham Than Souphanouvong, which was once the home of Prince Souphanouvong when he was forced into hiding.

Other caves worth visiting in the area are Tham Than Kaysone and Tham Than Khamtay. Both of these caves were the residences of leading Lao political figures and are very grand in scale featuring meeting rooms and reception areas.

After a busy day of climbing through the caves, visitors to Houa Phah can soak away their aches and pains in the local hot spring in the Xam Tay district, where the waters reach temperatures of 40?C. Cool off afterwards in the pretty Xam Tay waterfall and explore the surrounding forest.

There are a large number of villages dotted around Houa Phah and the talented villages are well known for their craftwork skills. This is a good time to watch weaving, which is still done using traditional methods. The textiles made here are thought by many to be some of the finest in Asia and make great souvenirs.

Hintang Archeological Park is one of Laos’ more important prehistoric sites and a great place for a daytrip. Wander through the ruins and discover the foundations of this picturesque region and pay a visit to the large and inviting Keo Nong Vay temple.

Borikhamsay, Laos

Borikhamsay, Laos
Borikhamsay, Laos
Borikhamsay, Laos
Borikhamsay, Laos

If you want a place to relax and unwind surrounded by stunning natural scenery, Borikhamsay is the place to be. Borikhamsay province is located in central Laos, about a three hour drive from the capital city of Vientiane. Borikhamsay’s close proximity to Vientiane makes it a good destination for a day trip, although it is also a good place to pause for a day or two and discover the natural beauty of Laos.  

Also known as Bolikhamsai, Borikhamsay is an important pilgrimage site and people travel from all over the country to visit Wat Phra Baat, which contains a footprint believed to have been made by Lord Buddha as he travelled through the countryside. Laos was once home to a large collection of Buddhist monuments but sadly most have been decimated by war over the years, making this footprint all the more precious.

Another good day trip is the stone forest at Poupha Mane, where the large collection of rocky pinnacles are a striking sight. To the south it is possible to spot wildlife such as the hatinh langur, mable cat and the Asian forest tortoise in the pristine forests of Nam Thuen, while the National Biodiversity Conservation Area is Laos’ largest conservation area. Here you will find many endangered animals including the Asiatic black bear, clouded leopard, elephant, giant muntjac, guar, Malayan sun bear, and tiger. There are guides available to lead you through the forests and explain all about this amazing area.

The capital town of the province is Paksan, and here you will find plenty of places to stay as well as some good restaurants and of course the famous Laos hospitality. A good way to get around this area is by hiring a bicycle or simply walking, talking the time to share smiles and greetings with the people you pass along the way.

Paksan is also a good stopping off point for people travelling to Vietnam as it is situated close to the Vietnamese border. The majority of the region’s population is comprised by tribes such as the Thai, Phuan, Tri and Hmong. This is a good time to learn more about these interesting tribes and their alternative lifestyles.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

An area of incredible natural beauty situated in Krabi Province, there are actual two main islands of Koh Phi Phi; Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh. The Phi Phi Islands are believed by many to be among the most beautiful tropical islands in the world and have become one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions.

Koh Phi Phi Don is the area’s tourist hub. This is where you will find the majority of the hotels, beach bungalows, bars and restaurants. Koh Phi Phi Don covers an area of 28 square kilometres and features the twin bays of Ao Ton Sai and Ao Lo Da Lam with their stunning curving white sandy beaches, the perfect picture of an exotic tropical paradise. A great way to get an idea of the island’s true beauty is to tackle the 1000 foot vertical climb to Viewpoint. Although slightly challenging, the climb, which takes you through a lush leafy jungle, and the view more than make up for it.

There are many interesting activities to engage in on Koh Phi Phi Don, and it is easy to spend a week or more there. Fire jugglers and beach bars make up the evening entertainment, and there are plenty of restaurants showing western movies throughout the day and late into the night. There is dancing on the beach most nights. To experience a true touch of hedonism, visit the island around the full moon.

The sunset yoga classes on the beach are a good way to unwind, and you can learn a new skill and impress your friends by taking Thai cookery classes.

When it comes to food, just about every taste can be catered for, whether you fancy a fish barbecue on the beach, an all-you-can-eat feast or traditional Thai cooking. There is also a small market where you can eat with the locals at dramatically reduced prices and this is a good place to buy fresh fruit.

The clear waters, beautiful coral and colourful fish mean that the area is popular for diving and snorkelling, whilst many visit the island to climb the limestone cliffs. Boat trips are extremely popular and are usually combined with snorkelling and a visit to the extremely striking island of Koh Phi Phi Leh.

Koh Phi Phi Leh is famous for Ao Maya – the location where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. The island covers a mere 6.6 square kilometres and is surrounded by limestone mountains and sheer cliffs, which plunge hundreds of metres to the sparkling blue sea. The sea is around 20 metres deep and the deepest point to the

south of the island is approximately 34 metres. There is no accommodation on Koh Phi Phi Leh, and the only way to see it is by an arranged boat trip.

Koh Phi Phi Other islands in the area to explore include Koh Jam (also know as Koh Pu) and Koh Si Buya. Although extremely pretty, both of these small islands are less popular with tourists and are great places to stay if you want to avoid the crowds.

Chumphon, Thailand

Chumphon, Thailand
Chumphon, Thailand
Chumphon, Thailand
Chumphon, Thailand

Blessed with warm welcomes, good food and pretty palm groves, Chumphon is one of Thailand’s southern provinces and features more than 200 kilometres of seashore, picturesque beaches, nearby islands, sparkling waterfalls and caves to explore. This province is ideal for those who seek relaxation amongst beauty away from the tourist and backpacker scene.

A big attraction in the area is Hat Tha Wua Laen, which is a good place for windsurfing and kiteboarding, whilst the beach of Hat Sai Ri is a good place to arrange day trips to the surrounding islands.

A big attraction in the area is Hat Tha Wua Laen, which is a good place for windsurfing and kiteboarding, whilst the beach of Hat Sai Ri is a good place to arrange day trips to the surrounding islands.

There are a large number of enchanting tropical islands just waiting to be explored in this amazing province. Many people hire a boat and take a tour of several islands all in one day, combining the trip with snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and sunbathing on the beach. Some great islands to explore include Koh Phithak, Koh Ngam Yai and Koh Ngam Noi, the limestone island of Koh Thalu, Koh Mattra and Koh Chorakhe, which means Crocodile Island in the Thai language.

There are some spectacularly beautiful national parks in the area, including the Mu Ko Chumphon National Park and Khlong Phrao National Park. Most of the tiny islands feature waterfalls nestled in the jungles, which are extremely beautiful and great for swimming in. Look out for Namtok Heo Lom, Namtok Thap Chang, and the incredible Namtok Kapo Forest Park.

Caving enthusiasts will not be disappointed as there are a large number of interesting caves to explore including Tham Thip Prida, Tham Thong and the Tham Khao Phlu Wildlife Conservation Area. Visitors can also combining the caving experience with relaxation at the Tham Khao Plu Hot Spring, which actually contains three hot springs of various temperatures all with a lush jungle backdrop to enjoy while you soak and receive the healing benefits of the natural mineral waters.

The mountain of Khao Chao Mueang provides spectacular views over the area, while the adventurous can take a trip to explore the pretty winding canal network with Phato Canal Rafting.

Although generally quite peaceful, the area comes alive in April to celebrate the Chumphon Marine Festival. The main focus of the festival is the Windsurfing Competition, which takes place at Hat Tha Wua Laen. There is also a marathon and exhibits of folk art, dancing and beach barbecues.

Also worth looking out for is the Lang Suan Buddha Image Parade and Boat Race Festival. The festival features a procession of temple boats and a boat race on Mae Nam Lang Suan, which is situated 60 kilometres to the south of Chumphon.

Trang, Thailand

Trang, Thailand
Trang, Thailand
Trang, Thailand
Trang, Thailand

Located approximately 828 kilometres from Bangkok, Trang Province is one of Thailand’s most southern provinces and covers an area of 4,941 square kilometres. The province features a group of pretty, chilled out islands and regularly wins awards for the ‘Cleanest City in Thailand’.

Two major rivers flow through the province; the Trang River, which originates in the Khao Luang Mountain Range and Maenam Palian from the Banthat Mountain Range. This is an area of stunning natural beauty, featuring breathtaking islands and astounding beaches along the coast as well as awe-inspiring inland limestone mountains, caves and sparkling waterfalls, most of which feature pools for swimming in.

Many people travel from all over the world to visit Wat Tantayapirom, which features a footprint of Lord Buddha. Nearby, the Chinese Meunram Temple shows performances of Thai Shadow Theatre.

There are a large number of pretty islands in the area, and a great way to see them is by going on a sea kayaking tour. One of the most popular islands in the area is Ko Ngai, which is a small island with a long sandy beach in the east and unspoiled coral reefs. This is a great island for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Koh Muk and Tham Morakot (Emerald Cave) are also extremely popular, whilst Koh Kradan is said by many to be the most beautiful island in the area. Koh Chueak and Koh Waen are small islands good for snorkelling and scuba diving, while the Libong Archipelago Wildlife Reserve on Koh Libon preserves the rare dugong, also known as the sea cow. Although large, these animals are extremely graceful and it is delightful to see them in this reserve, which is one of the last areas of refuge open to them.

There are a large number of beautiful flowing waterfalls in Trat. Among the best are Namtok Ton Te and the incredible 17-tiered Namtok Phrai Sawan.

Hat Yao is a very chilled out fishing hamlet, perfect for escaping the crowds and the abundant bars of other beach areas. Hidden amongst the cliffs, you will need to hire a long-tail boat to reach the tiny bay of Hat Apo, but it is well worth the trouble. Whilst there, pay a visit to the extremely beautiful cave of Tham Chao Mai, which has hosts of glittering stalactites and stalagmites.

There are many different snorkelling trips available in the area. A good option is to book a trip to Koh Rok and go trekking in the mighty mountains of Khao Banthat.