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The Most Captivating Mountain Treks in Southeast Asia, A Guest Post by Alaska O’Hara
Thinking of doing something a little different for your next trip? Why not try trekking through the many wonderful mountains scattered across Southeast Asia?
These comprise a side of the region that have remained relatively untouched by the modern world, and present an exciting way to reconnect with both nature and yourself.
The Most Captivating Mountain Treks in Southeast Asia: Indonesia and Malaysia:
Here are some mountain treks you can start with:
Mount Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia
The Indonesian archipelago is home to some wonderful sights — from the deep-sea dives at Komodo Island to the spectacular heights of Mount Bromo. But if you’d like to escape the crowds and get closer to the sky, then Mount Rinjani in Lombok Island is the place to go. At 3,726 meters above sea level, one of the mountain’s highlights is its pure blue crater. Trekkers can enjoy its breathtaking beauty and hot springs best between early April and January.
While it isn’t really considered a difficult hike, experience in overnight hiking will definitely be a plus, as the entire trek will take up to four days. Climbing Mount Rinjani will cost you anywhere from $190 to $340.
Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia
A key place for local folklore, the 4,906-meter high Mount Kinabalu is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. It is best known for its rich and diverse ecology, filled with endemic plants and animals like orangutans and stinking corpse flowers. The sunrise view at the peak is also quite the sight to behold.
Although the summit is accessible and can be reached within a day, beginner climbers are advised to take a three-day, two-night pace to acclimatize to the altitude. Booking in advance is recommended, as only 135 hikers are allowed per day and will cost you around $386. The price will include accommodation, meals, a mountain guide, and a permit with the required insurance.
The Most Captivating Mountain Treks in Southeast Asia: Philippines and Cambodia:
Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Mount Pinatubo used to be an active volcano, and erupted back in 1991. It is considered the second largest volcanic eruption to happen in the 20th century. Today, Pinatubo is a place of tranquility that solo trekkers must see at least once in their lifetime. Its crater is now Caldera Lake, a stunning body of blue-green water that gradually gets bluer as you approach the center. The historical significance of Pinatubo and its pristine beauty have earned it a well-deserved place in Daydreaming in Paradise’s list of the 10 most famous mountains in the Philippines. Although swimming in the lake is now forbidden, trekkers can still enjoy magnificent boulders, rushing rivers, and exciting terrain during their trip.
As for expenses, going it alone will cost around $220, so it’s best to find a travel group so you can split the cost between you.
Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia
This is one of the more difficult climbs on the list. While only 1,813 meters high, the dense forests of the Cardamom Mountains provide a challenge for beginners and intermediate climbers. Having once served as the battleground for soldiers driving out the Khmer Rouge, the Cardamom Mountains also hold an important place ecologically. They are home to rare wildlife such as the Pileated Gibbon, the Asian Elephant, Clouded Leopard, and Bengal Slow Loris — all critically endangered species. This has led to a rise in eco-tourism, which aims to preserve the wilderness by providing visitors with a pleasant holiday while funding conservation efforts.
The trek across the Cardamom Mountains can range from $15 to $120, depending on how deep in the jungle you want to go and how long you want to trek for. The accommodation options are sparse, but do come with the basic necessities.
Solo Trekker 4 U: Personal insights and recommendations from Founder, Elizabeth Avery:
For those of us in North America, our first thought is how really far away Asia is. Just thinking about the long, long flight can be daunting. Next, the diverse numbers of languages can give a solo traveler pause. The good news is that Asia is a warm and welcoming solo travel destination. English is widely spoken, and it felt safe for me as a solo female traveler. In any case, it is important, whether at home and in any location abroad, to use good judgment. This is true even though I love adventure, having explored the world alone, including navigating the swine flu and cholera epidemics and dodged feasting crocodiles. However, I always look for lodging with a full service restaurant to avoid foraging for dinner in unfamiliar places after dark, and book a reliable pick-up for my arrival.
Some more of our lessons learned:
- Connecting flights between counties require processing through passport control and/or customs. Allow for time lost. Worse yet connections even within the same carrier’s system may be at opposite ends of the airport.
- With the amount of flying time required, consider spending the night at an airport motel.
- Check visa requirements carefully. For example, if you are on a river cruise, you may cross a second international. This is true traveling between Cambodia and Vietnam.
- While the climate is generally warm, modest dress is appropriate for both men and women. In royal palaces, houses of worship and other certain public monuments, you may need to have head covering, a long skirt and/or shawl. In one case, my guide found my Capri pants at mid-calf too short. I went back and changed into blue jeans. That passed the test! Some locations will offer “loaners” for your visit. Do be prepared for real temperature drops either at night or en route. Coming from Southeast Asia, I almost froze traveling home through Beijing. Air China arrived on the tarmac in 40 plus degree weather with no Jetway and a plane full of tee shirt and flip-flop clad tourists shivering.
- I recommend packing socks. Why is that? If you need to remove your shoes going into certain buildings, the stones or other flooring can be hot. They are also a good way to dodge mosquitoes of other unwanted insects as needed.
- Watch out for wet markets and/or petting or getting too close to undomesticated animals. In addition, even many pets may not have had rabies vaccinations.
- Many of the authentic attractions may be hard to reach or require access from the water.