#TRAVEL – Wales: 4 Waterfall Hike

Croseo I Cyrmu!

Wales.

My home. 

No better place to re-ignite my #TRAVEL series with.

With a population of just over 3 million people, and almost 10 million sheep (I’m not joking), Wales isn’t exactly ‘on the map’. 

Well, it should be…

Wales boasts vibrant green landscapes for as far as the eye can see.

Hidden amongst the hills, collieries and trees are many concealed gems that can be sought out…

Waterfalls!

In fact, there are hundreds of waterfalls scattered throughout this mountainous country.  The scenic environment and wet climate have bred these rapids for thousands of years and their offspring is spectacular.

Just north of the infamous Pendryn Whisky Distillery lies the ‘Brecon Beacons 4 Waterfalls Walk’. This scenic little hike takes you along a picturesque path through the woods were you’ll be greeted by 4 of them –Sgwd Clun-gywn, Sgywd y Pannwr, Sgwd Isaf Clun-gywn and Sgwd yr Eira.

The path begins close to the little village of Ystradfellte.  It isn’t too strenuous, but some parts of the track can be quite slippery, so wear appropriate footwear.

There is a National Park car park that charges around 4GBP per day.    It’s located at the beginning of the path.  From there, you just follow the winding path which will eventually loop back around on itself.

Depending on your speed and fitness, the Brecon Beacons 4 Waterfall walk should take no longer than 3 – 4 hours to complete.

Have fun, be safe & Enjoy Wales!

#TRAVEL – Phillipines: Kawasan Falls

If you’re interested in visiting one of the best waterfalls in the world, then you’re reading the right thing.

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Kawasan Falls is a 3-tier waterfall located in the southwest of the Philippine island, Cebu. Cebu itself is an interesting and beautiful place to visit, but in this post, I’m going to concentrate on the waterfall itself. I first saw a picture of the Kawasan Falls on an Instagram travel account I follow – @doyoutravel. I Immediately added it to my bucket list.

The location of the falls isn’t in the most convenient of places, but the dirt cheap cost of transport in Cebu makes it easily accessible.

GETTING THERE FROM CEBU CITY

The chances are you’ll be staying in Cebu city. This gives you 3 options:

Bus – The cheapest option is to take a bus from the main bus station. The bus ride takes 3 – 4 hours and costs as little as 200 PHP ($4 USD).

Car – A more expensive but more comfortable option is to take a taxi. Taxi drivers charge about 3000 PHP ($64 USD) for the round trip. Between a few people, 3000 PHP is still very much affordable and in my opinion is worth the extra time you’d gain….. and the air-con!

Bike – The third and probably the most exciting option is to rent yourself a motorbike or scooter and drive there yourself. After experiencing the roads of Cebu, I will say to anyone doing this – BE CAREFUL!

STAY CLOSE

Additionally, there are several hostels and resorts located closer to Kawasan Falls. If I ever visit Cebu again and have more time, I’m definitely going to stay away from the city center and explore more of the island!

Before you reach the waterfalls, you’ll need to trek for about 15 minutes from the National Park entrance. Like most national parks there is an entrance fee. For foreigners, this fee is 30PHP, which is very little. The path to the falls is mostly flat and adjacent to an azure-colored river, so the walk is rather enjoyable despite the heat.

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When you arrive at the falls, it’ll take a few minutes for your brain to figure out that it’s real and that you’re not dreaming or watching some CGI’d masterpiece.I think it’s worth noting that despite its natural beauty there typically aren’t as many tourists as you’d expect at the falls. Instead, there are many locals having a good time! It’s also worth knowing that the falls are at their busiest on the weekends.

If you’re on a budget it’d be wise to bring your own food and drink because the vendors on location sell their products at high prices. It is a bit of a money trap.

And speaking of money trap….. Immediately upon arriving at the falls, you’ll be swarmed with local Filipinos asking to be your guide for the day. Despite saying “no, thanks” several times, we still ended up with a guide at our side who helped us around and told us a little about the area. Even though we did not want a guide in the first place, we still paid him and thanked him at the end of our stay.

There are actually 3 waterfalls. The first is the most impressive and is where the majority of the food, people and rafts are. Yes, rafts. 3 or 4 large bamboo rafts have been constructed in the waterfall pool. You can rent these rafts and even get a local to take you to the actual waterfall and go under it. The water gets VERY powerful and didn’t go nicely with my sunburn! But it was fun!!

The other 2 waterfalls are just a little further up than the first and can be found within a 5-minute walk.

If you’re looking for a dash of adrenaline to your day then go canyoning!

A few tour operators at the falls offer the chance for you to canyon down the 3 falls.

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I really cannot rate the Kawasan Falls high enough! I’d go again, if only just to look at it for 30 seconds. It’s stunning! Go and experience it for yourself.

 

This Lonely Planet guide to the Philippines has all you need and much, much more!

3 Myths About Niagara Falls

So I recently took a trip out to Niagara Falls, something I’ve been wanting to see for years. When I mentioned my plan to friends, the general reaction was always, “Why?”. Their opinions ranged from indifferent to overly negative whether they’d been there before or not. Undeterred, I hopped a 7-hour bus from Chinatown up to Niagara to see for myself. So did any of those negative insights hold true? Let’s see…

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“You’re gunna get soaked!”

The highlight of any trip to the falls is a boat ride out into the mist. These boats run from both the Canadian and American sides, with the American Maid of the Mist boats beginning operation in 1846 and Hornblower Cruises operating the boat tours from the Canadian side since 2012. Now, it’s true that it’s cold, windy, and wet…but this is why they provide you with the biggest ponchos I’ve ever seen in my life. Americans get blue while Canadians get red and believe me, they’re gigantic. Definitely longer than I am tall, with long sleeves and drawstring hoods. You can barely tell there are people on the boats rather than giant walking garbage bags. You’d have to put in serious effort to get yourself soaked.

“Eck…it’s SO commercialized…”

Niagara Falls are arguably some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, and definitely the most famous in North America. Yeah, it’s true that the name and image is plastered on everything from t-shirts to shot glasses, but ya know what? So is Angkor Wat. So is Mt. Everest. So are the pyramids at Giza.

Passing by souvenir shops or paying admission doesn’t mean the falls have lost any of their power or presence.

“It’s boring…once you’ve seen it you just turn around and go home.”

This was the most common complaint I heard and I’m convinced that people who believe this never took a whole 2 seconds to look around. While it’s true that the Niagara, New York is a somewhat empty town, it does boast historical Fort Niagara, a remnant of New France built in 1726. For those with an interest in history, architecture, or photography, it’s an incredible must-see. Beyond that, Niagara, Canada has casinos, museums, waterparks, arcades…it’s seriously like a tiny Vegas.

This was one of those trips that revived my conviction to always make my own opinions. Don’t let naysayers discourage you from getting out there and experiencing new things…it’s all about perspective. Yeah, sometimes you’ll be disappointed, but more often than not you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

-Ashley

#TRAVEL – Laos: Alluring Luang Prabang

Laos Title

In 2014, an old man selling books on the side of the road in Bangkok tried pitching me a tattered guide to Laos by telling me of his time spent working in Luang Prabang. Intrigued by the notion of a city reputed to have greater rustic appeal than much of the Asian countryside, I found myself booking a flight to Laos just a few weeks later.

After a nerve-racking flight in a prop plane, I arrived late morning as countless monks were retreating from collecting daily alms. I checked into my hostel and crashed, waking up just in time to get a taste of city’s nightlife.

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Confession time: I’ve been to way more than my fair share of bars throughout Asia. Naturally, each creates its own distinct atmosphere, but Utopia in Luang Prabang has by far the most relaxing and chill vibes of any I’ve been to. Utopia is an open-air bar overlooking the Nam Khan River, filled with shin-high, candlelit tables surrounded by stacks of pillows. During the day they offer yoga and volleyball, while at night you can enjoy great food, drinks, music and shisha pipes, or startup a friendly board game tournament with fellow expatsbelieve me, Giant Jenga is harder than it looks!

Of course, Utopia closes at the town’s 11:30 PM curfew so you can always call it a night and get an early start in the AM. For those brave expats willing to break curfew there is one place open for another three hoursa 16-lane bowling alley. A parade of tuktuks begin carting off truckloads of travellers from every bar to a venue that in all honesty is a fairly run-down barebones bowling alley…not so much as a poster on the wall. However, when the crowds from different bars and hostels begin mixing it turns into a party every night, showing how it’s often the people and not the place that matters.

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4 Kuang Xi Cascade

Naturally, there’s much more to Luang Prabang than bars and bowling. One of the biggest tourist draws are the Kuang Xi Waterfalls, and for good reason.

The falls themselves are breathtaking, with tier after tier of warm, deep pools perfect for swimming and vast enough as not to be crowded. The largest fall is over 60m highthe climb to the top is indeed difficult and the trails are extremely steep and slick, but once youve reached the top you wont regret it. Standing at the edge of a 200ft drop as the water rushes round your ankles tugging you forward is just as terrifying as it is exhilarating, finding yourself transfixed by the turquoise expanse below you.

5 Haw Pha Bang

If you’re looking for a bit of Laos culture, the Night Market in Luang Prabang is a great place to start. Beginning around 5:00 each evening, the market consists of a huge, horseshoe-shaped setup of tented stalls on a kilometer-long stretch of road. Here, you can peruse literally thousands of handicrafts, clothing, and souvenirs, sample whiskey and wine, and watch artists at work. One of their most famous products are paper lanterns filled with pressed flowers, adding a unique ambiance. The crowd and crafters themselves are much more mellow than many of the hectic, bustling markets one usually encounters, with no one hawking their goods or aggressively haggling and competing.

In a city brimming with temples, choosing where to start can be difficult, especially if pressed for time. However, some are not to be missed:

Wat Haw Pha Bang is located on the palace grounds, housing a 14th-century Buddha statue covered in gold leaf. Of course, the palace itself is beautifulcontaining everything from the Crown Jewels of Laos to a piece of moon rock, it also functions as a haphazard museum.

Wat Chomphet is a small, tidy building that more resembles an old prairie house than a temple, yet it need not be flashy to be impressive. Most memorable is the experience of arriving via a 123-step staircase near the edge of town, a climb more than worth the view.

Wat Pa Phon Phae is a great stop for those feeling burnt out with the similarities between templesits distinctive form is reminiscent of adobe-style architecture and it is filled with elaborate murals.

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Luang Prabang can easily be overlooked on the backpacker route, yet its diverse historical, urban, and natural landscapes allow it to appeal to the most colorful of crowds.

 

– Ashley