Hanoi, Vietnam: Beware of The Infamous ‘Pineapple Scam’

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If you think that I and my friend were having a good time with the pineapple. You are wrong! We were just got scammed. The Infamous Hanoi ‘Pineapple Scam’.

It was about 2 years ago. We were having a good time walking around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s a good place to have a walk since I don’t have such a place in my hometown, Jakarta. Ice creams were in our hands. The weather was perfect, not too hot not too cold, just perfect. The air was so clear revealing the full moon at its best shape. Surrounding the lake, magnificent view of a group of old people taichi-ing were unstoppably making its way to our pocket camera. Ah! A lovely evening.

About 8 PM, we were right in front of the famous Hanoi Water Puppet Show ticket office, making our way to cross the street going back to the old quarter area. Suddenly a young lady come toward us, trying  to sell the mangoes in her carrying pole with her broken english. Since we just had our dinner and we were still enjoying ice creams in our hands as dessert, we politely refused her delicious pineapples. And then she smiled and once again with her broken english making a gesture offering us to have a photo with her full of pineapple carrying pole. “Photo.. Photo..”, she said as she gave us her carrying pole. How nice she was, we thought. Without thinking twice we accepted her offer to have this photo session, in fact we were very excited.

After taking some pictures, helped by the lady, we returned the carrying pole to her. Right after we passed the pole, she offered us two bags of pineapples and said, “10 dollars”. I couldn’t believe my ears, so I asked her again, and that time I was pretty sure that she asked 10 dollars for 2 bags of pineapple! Sweet Jesus! Because we thought that she was still trying to sell the pineapples, we again refused her offer. What she said 5 second later, succesfully assured us that we just got scammed! “you photo… you photo… 2 photo… 2 pineapple… 10 dollars” Errr… Okay, we were officially scammed! She forced us to take photo with her stuff and in return forcing us to buy the pineapple. Triple Price perhaps! We couldn’t just runaway from her because there were many of her friends around her, and we didn’t want any bad things happen and ruin our holiday. So we paid her and ate our second dessert, the most expensive pineapple in the world! I can get 2 bags of pineapple for 1 Dollar in Jakarta. Damn!

Travelling sometimes leads you to unfunny things. Sometime it could be dangerous. So, be careful out there! Make wise decision and stay safe.

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Holstee Manifesto – “Travel Often. Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself”

This campaign poster called Manifesto by Holstee has never failed me to remind me about how I really want my life to be.

“This is your life.  Do what you love, and do it often.  If you don’t like your job, quit.  If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.  If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.  Stop over analyzing, life is simple.  All emotions are beautiful.  When you eat, appreciate every last bite.  Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences.  Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them.  Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.  Some opportunities only come once, seize them.  Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating.  Life is short.  Live your dream and share your passion.”

Ujung Kulon National Park: Adventure at The Tip of Java

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Ujung Kulon, literally Western Tip, is a National Park located at the most western tip of Java Island, Indonesia. It is known most for becoming the habitat of Javan Rhinoceros or Badak Bercula Satu in Bahasa Indonesia, which unlike any normal Rhinoceros, this one only has one horn.

To see this rare Rhinoceros was my motivation coming into this place. It turned out I took the wrong route by joining a joint trip to Pulau Peucang, a part of Ujung Kulon National Park. Even so, I didn’t have any regret at all. Pulau Peucang and some other places I visited were just beautiful, naturally beautiful. A virgin paradise of nature.

A long 8 hours bus ride from Jakarta to Wisma Sarang Badak, Sumur, West Java; started our journey. My friends said that the road was not easy, the bus needs to climb up and down lots of inclining roads. Worse, the road is not flat and lots of holes must be passed. These made the bus went slowly and shaking a lot. I didn’t feel anything at all since we departed on 9 PM so I was just sleeping all along the road.

Arrived at Wisma Sarang Badak at 5 AM, we took a short break and breakfast before departing to Pulau Peucang by boat. To see how The Wisma looks like, please refer to the first 28 seconds of this video.

[Video] Ujung Kulon National Park: Adventure at The Tip of Java

On the way to Pulau Peucang, we made a stop at a small island where we could go snorkelling. The underwater scenery wasn’t so good though, just okay.

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2 hours after, we arrived at the beautiful Pulau Peucang! We all were stunned by the magnificent look of its long vast, virgin, untouched, white sandy beach. This was the best beach I’ve ever seen, well maybe second after  The Pink Beach at Komodo IslandBut this one is better in terms of cleanliness, no single garbage was seen. It’s because Pulau Peucang is an unhabited island. There are only not more than 10 people living at the island; they are all the keepers of the island.

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Upon landing, we were warmly greeted by 2 children who we then played football with.

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We make Pulau Peucang our base camp on our 3D/2N adventure at Ujung Kulon National Park. We lived at a small house with 2 rooms, 1 room for the boys, 1 room for the girls.

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A part of The Wide Ujung Kulon National Park, Pulau Peucang is home for Rusa Deer, boar, monkeys, and some wild animals live in it. So, don’t get shocked if you find them standing very closely to you. I had an experience where when I opened my bathroom door after I took a shower, I screamed because right before my eyes was the nose of a Rusa deer!

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After lunch and a short break, we depart to a place called Tanjung Layar, a bay with lots of high hard rocks facing to the beach that protect the area from strong waves that comes every 5 seconds. Due to good climate, the surface of the rocks is now beautifully covered by the green grass, makes it look like alps. People used to build an old lighthouse at the highest rock in there before it was destroyed by the strong waves. Now they have built another one at the deeper area of the jungle.

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To reach Tanjung Layar, you have to track down a jungle for about 30-60 minutes. You’d find a giant tree that has a big hole on its branch. Quite a sweet spot to take a photo. So we made one even though I wasn’t in the picture. :p

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From Tanjung Layar, we go to Cidaon, a vast savannah and a home for Bison, Cow, Peacock, and some wild animals. It wasn’t very good to visit it in the afternoon since most of animals usually show themselves in the morning. But it was still quite an experience. I’ve never seen Bison and peacock so close before my eyes in their habitat.

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After enjoying the sunset on the way back, we all took a break at Pulau Peucang. The next day, before we went back to Sumur and take bus go back to Jakarta, we visited Cigenter river and go canoeing. The feeling was……. Ahh, I don’t know what’s the right for that. It feels like I am in Anaconda movie when they go through the river in the middle of the jungle with the boat. No sound was heard other than the sound of our paddle touching the water, birds chirping, insects buzzing, and snakes hissing. It feels a bit mystical for me. Again, a whole new experience for me. Feels so different compared to when I canoeing at Pulau Umang, Singapore.

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Cigenter was our last destination on this adventure. But for me the adventure has not finished yet. I had a… I don’t know, maybe a little bit crazy experience but it made such a good adventurous memory.

It was because of the strong waves on our way back to Sumur before we leave to Jakarta. The boat was not high enough to keep the water not going into the boat. We, who sat on the deck, literally had our butt soaking wet because we put it on the salty sea water filling the deck’s floor. Also, a lot of time a very strong wave came and hit the boat very strongly, causing a huge splash of sea water, hitting directly to our face and body. Being treated like that by the sea for couples of hours, we were all soaking wet when we arrived Sumur. The only thing we want was just having a shower. But where could we do it? There was no plan to go back to Wisma Sarang Badak. The bus was ready to take us go back to Jakarta already. And then I found an old Mosque about 10 meters from where the bus park. I walked my foot off to the Mosque. It is a small mosque, only 3-4 meter wide and no more than 10 meter long. The only thing I looked for from the Mosque is the bathroom. And it feels like I found heaven’s door when I saw 2 bathrooms next to the praying chamber. Perhaps I was making a sin by not asking permission from the Mosque keeper, but without thinking twice I went into the bathroom and took a bath! I even forgot to turned on the lights before I went in. And it feels so good after taking a shower, so fresh. When I was out from the bathroom, the other people were lining up in front of the door, wanting to do the same thing with what I just did, take a bath before our long 8 hours drive to Jakarta. I was such a provocator. :p But that’s the thing I love the most from travelling. It always leads me to new different things I can try and new experiences I can have.

This mass showering at the small Mosque at the small town of Sumur concluded our journey. Too bad I didn’t went to where the Rhino are, but I’m still happy to have this adventure. I’m in love with the tranquil Pulau Peucang, and the mystical Cigenter river.

For those of who wants to see the Rhino, here is the information I got from the boat captain that might be useful. To see the Rhino, you have to cross the jungle, cut across it from North to South or East to West. It usually will take 2-3 days of tracking and you have to camp in the jungle. Still, the odd of stumble upon even just a single Javan Rhinoceros is very low since there are only about 50 of them left, living in the area of 1280 square kilometer in Ujung Kulon National Park. But you can try your luck, there’s no no harm doing it even though it could be harmful since the jungle is also a habitat of leopard and other wild animals. That’s why you need to report first at Ujung Kulon National Park office at the town of Labuhan in West Java, about 4 hours away from Jakarta, and get the ranger and porter (optional) to go with you to the jungle. I really long to do this, so if there’s any of you wants to do this, please contact me, and we can arrange everything to go together.

Thanks for reading! Adventure never ends!

P.S.: my friend made a documentary video, please check it out to have better visualization of how the national park looks like.

[Video] Ujung Kulon National Park: Adventure at The Tip of Java

 

[Video] Ujung Kulon National Park: Adventure at The Tip of Java

A video from my journey with some friends at Ujung Kulon National Park. Even though we didn’t manage to see Badak Bercula Satu (Javan Rhinoceros), it was still one hell of adventure.

Please check out the link below for the complete story of my adventure:

Ujung Kulon National Park: Adventure at The Tip of Java

Credit to: Ezra Felix who recorded and edited this video.

Takayama – Shirakawago: Potraits of Classic Japan

If you ever stepped your feet in Hanami-Koji Dori in Kyoto and thought that you have finally seen the look of Japan in its old time; you might probably had not visited Takayama. Shirakawa-go is a small village located outside of Takayama.

Both are MUST VISIT IN JAPAN.

Takayama

Located in the Gifu perfecture that famous for its Alps scenery, Takayama is 4-5 hours away from Tokyo by Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train). Accompanied by majestic view of Japanese alps, rivers, and national parks along the way, 4-5 hours won’t feel so long. I was busy taking photos and barely slept on my way to Takayama from Tokyo.

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This is a small town, 1-2 days is enough to experience the whole city. But it is just as good to stay here longer for relaxation and experiencing how actually people live in this lovely town.

Just right at the opposite of the train station, it is an area called Sanmachi. This part of the city is the heart of Takayama. It is still well-preserving the old looks of classic Edo; which means you only need to do just one thing in here: WALK. You don’t need to worry the direction where you are going; every corner of Sanmachi has its own uniqueness. But for convenience purpose, you can grab a free map at the small kiosk right in the mouth of station exit.

No matter where you are going you can see old Japanese wooden building housings, traditional Japanese restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, boutiques, snack shops, & local sake breweries. That’s why even though the area is not so big, it can take 3 hours to finish walking around the cities. All the building has its own charm that will tempt you to step your feet in.One thing that I like about walking around this area is because it is so quiet. I didn’t see many people during my walks in Sanmachi. Even when I stumble upon one, they almost did not make any sound and really enjoyed their walk just like I was. This quietness also continue in restaurant. I am from a country where everytime I have a meal with a group of people, I will be loudly talking and laughing with the others. But in here, people rarely talk and seem like devote themselves to the food they having. Even when they talked, you barely hear the voice even if they sit in the next table from yours. So, PLEASE RESPECT this tradition and don’t make too much noise when you visit Takayama.

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Foods here are great. Takayama is famous for its Hida-Gyu (Hida beef) which tastes just as delicious as the famous Wagyu. That’s why, unquestionably it’s a bit pricey to give this famous beef a taste. People here make almost everything can be made using Hida-Gyu as the ingredient: Japanese yakiniku, Hida-Gyu Ramen, Hamburger, and even Italian Pasta with Hida-Gyu.

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Beside Hida-Gyu, Takayama is also famous for its Miso Ramen. Seriously, I can’t find Miso Ramen anywhere else in Japan that can equal Takayama’s! Both the noodles and the soups are genious!

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In the north-east part of the city, after crossing the big red bridges, Takayama’s city landmark, there is a place that you can do sake-tasting there. If you are interested, the staff will help you to recommend the good sake with a very good English.

From him, I also learnt that in the center of the city at night there is one narrow alley that is full with Japanese Izakaya’s. During my visit, the alley looks almost like dead city. I didn’t hear loud music coming from the bar or attractive girls invited me to go inside. It was just a street full of lamps and closed door with a few people walking. 100% different from Legian in Bali or Soi Cowboy in Bangkok or any nightlife center in the world that usually loud and wild. I dared myself to walk into one of the izakaya. When I was inside, It’s just like any other bar in the world: music, alcohol, people; all in Japanese style.

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Other place to visit in Takayama is a place called Hida No Sato. I don’t recommend anyone to go here if they’re planning to visit Shirakawa since this is just the mini version of it. Up in the north part of Takayama there also some castles and ruins. They are just okay, but worth to visit if you have spare time. Early in the morning there are also 2 traditional markets that you can visit. Go there for shopping and try some local delicacies.

For accomodation, a must to do: stay in Japanese Ryokan instead of regular hotel.

Shirakawa-go

One of UNESCO heritage world’s site, Shirakawa-go is located 45 minutes away by bus from Takayama. People say that it’s best to visit Shirakawa-go in winter. Well, I haven’t proved it yet since it was summer when I visit Shirakawa-go.

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Shirakawa-go is a small Japanese traditional village, famous for its Gassho Zukuri House, Japanese style house made of wood and roof made of thick pile of dried straws. This is to protect the house from thick snow in winter.

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Some of the houses are open for people to visit after paying some fees. The most famous one is called Wada house, house belong to Wada family. The family will greet you warmly and serve you tea made from straws.

The village is very small. If you walk fast, you can  finish walking around it in 30 minutes. Normally people will walk around 1-2 hours in the village for each visit.

Other than Gassho Zukuri houses, you can also enjoy the beautiful scene of Japan traditional village. Rice fields, sun flower, trees, koi-fish ponds, river, water turbines, temples, sun light, etc. Just walk! You will feel like you are in that village you see in Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai movie. A perfect Asian summer image.

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In the winter, all the greens will turn into white. Since it’s located in the middle of mountains, the temperature in winter is very cold and the snow is very thick. All the street, rice fields, rivers, fish ponds, and everything in the village will be covered in snow; makes everything totally white in daytime. Night time in Shirakawa-go during winter is one of the most awaited moment by photographers. The yellow light emits from the snow covered Gassho Zukuri house’s square windows is a perfect contrast to the snow. Just go up to the hill outside the village and take photo.

Not just in winter and summer, rumour has it that Shirakawa-go gives you different experience throughout four seasons. That’s what make it unique. Good thing is, the village is always monitored by cctv. So, if you really want to know how the village looks in any point in time you can just go live-streaming it without having to visit it. Here’s the link for that:

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As a conclusion, of all UNESCO heritage site that I have visited, Shirakawago is in my top 5 list. So, for people looking for the look of classic Japan and feel the atmosphere of it; Takayama and Shirakawa-go is a must go. It’s a totally different experience from visiting Tokyo or Osaka, but I guarantee it’s just as nice if not better.
Do contact me if you have some inquiries about how to go to these 2 places. Arigatou!

Get in touch with Komodo Dragon in Indonesia!

Well, no. I didn’t actually touch Komodo by my hand. But I did, went to visit the dragon in their habitat, Komodo Island, one of The New 7 Wonders Of Nature.

There are several ways to visit Komodo Island. In my case, I took The Hunting Komodo by Camera 2N/3D by Perama Tours.

The Trip

The journey starts early in the morning on October 9th 2013 in Perama Office at Senggigi, Lombok. Using Perama bus, we went to Labuhan Lombok in the east part of Lombok to then ride the boat to Komodo Island. On the way to Labuhan Lombok we made stop at several shop and also to a village in Lombok (which I can’t remember the name) that famous for its people’s skill on making pottery in traditional way (using bare hands).

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Then we later went to continue our trip to Labuhan Lombok with the scene of Mountain Rinjani accompany us along the way. They provide “Kue Bantal”, lombok traditional snack made from sticky rice and banana, on the way.

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Soon after we arrived at Labuhan Bajo, we ride on the boat and depart. Our first stop was Perama Beach Resort, a private island of Perama Tour itself where we spent our time playing volley ball and snorkelling. We also had our experience doing coral plantation by simply binding a coral to a pipe and drown it to the sea.

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After dinner, the crew invited us to do “Poco-Poco” dancing on the beach which is not a common dance even for Indonesian like me.

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After sweating up our body, we then continue the journey in the night to the next stop, Satonda Island. It took the whole night to reach the island. If you ever join this trip, please make your time spend some minutes in the front deck to enjoy the stars. I’ve never seen the stars in the sky that many in my entire life. It was like the stars were all around you.

Satonda Island is famous for its stunningly beautiful lake. The salt level is higher than the sea that you would easily be able to float on the water. It was so good to enjoy the morning sunlight, floating in the lake, hearing nothing but the sound of nature. Ah! Serenity.

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Somewhere in the middle of the lake, you can also sit down on the stromatolite stone. This is a stone with ability to grow it’s size just like a living creature. Rumour has it that there are only 5 places in the world that has this stone.

The next destination is an island called Dempu. There’s not much to see here, we just wait here until night so that the boat will arrive at Komodo Island in the morning. They do this because Komodo Island is surrounded by many small islands, makes it hard for the captain to steer the boat in the night. This also to avoid the shipwreck tragedy that happens some years ago.

BAM! When I woke up the next day in the morning, I was stunned by the rare landscape of Nusa Tenggara area. It consists of many hilly small islands with dry savannah covering most of the island surface.

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About 9 AM, we finally arrived at the long awaited Komodo Island!

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Upon arrival, we needed to wait for the ranger for about 15 minutes, which then he explained to us about 3 available routes to explore the island. We took the longest route which require about 1-2 hours to complete. 50% of the track is flat, the other 50% is sloppy hill. It is not so hard to walk on the track. You can survive even if you’re wearing flipflop even though a proper tracking gear would be better. The surface of the island is about 390 square kilometers, and there are only 2800 Komodos live on it, so that it’s quite a challenge to locate on of them in the jungle. We were so lucky that we were able to find one in the jungle and see it very closely!

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Even though most of the dragons we find were just laying around in the ground, we were prohibited to get near to it closer than 6 meters. We would never know when they would feel threaten or hungry. And you don’t want to be like Mr.Rudolf from Switzerland who were eaten by the dragons years ago. During our tracking in the jungle, we only managed to see one dragon, and that’s already consider lucky. Even so, we were able to see more of them in the kitchen area.

After we had enough of cam-whoring The Komodo, we continue our trip to the other part of the island to enjoy the pink beach. Yes, the pink beach! A beach that is pink!

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Beside the long vast pink-colored beach that is very comfortable to chill down, this place also offers majestic view of rich underwater ecosystem! This is the best snorkeling spot on this trip even though the water temperature is so cold that I can only endure for 30 minutes in the water. But I enjoy it so much. Too bad, I didn’t bring underwater camera with me.

The pink beach concluded my long adventure. I was dropped at Labuhan Bajo and spent a night in there. This is a small seaport. The length is probably not more than 5 kilometer, yet along the main street you can find a lot of cafes, diving centers, and tour organizer. I am a bit regretful for not staying there longer. I could have been diving or visiting any other beautiful places in Flores from there.

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The trip was ended by a party hosted by Perama. I don’t quite like it since the music is too loud and the sound system is so trashy. They should have provided a better sound system if they want everybody to join the party. Nevertheless, The “Poco-Poco” dance is again one more time entertained us.

And, it’s the end of my adventure, looking for the Komodo dragon.

The Atmosphere

My first impression on joining this trip was: I feel like being a stranger in my own country. Of 23 people, only 2 including me are Indonesian. The crew said to me that it is actually not normal to have Indonesian on the trip. Most of the time the participant are domestic tourist. The last time they had Indonesian participant was in June. I really don’t understand why Indonesian is not so into this kind of adventure. I don’t even see any single local tourist from other tour in Komodo Island nor in Labuhan Bajo.

Yet, I have extraordinary feeling about this trip. The people on the tour are sooo nice and friendly. They are from many different places around the world and are very open to talk and share stories. There was a sweet old couple from Holland (husband is 80 years old, wife is 70 years old) that makes me so inspired to never stop travelling. There was also a Czech couple that are very friendly. I spent most of my time with them. And some other more! I made friends with all of them at the end. It made me a bit sad when the trip ends.

Also, kudos to all the friendly and helpful crew of Perama. As far as I know, there is no single complain from the participants to the crew.

The Accomodation

Well, we have 2 options to sleep; in the cabin or in the deck. Sleeping in cabin will cost IDR 1.000.000 more expensive that the deck. Yet, after the first night, I regret for have choosing cabin. In my opinion sleeping on the deck is nicer because the room in the cabin is so small and the worst that it has a bad smell. The only advantage of sleeping in the cabin is that we protected from the strong wind and we can store our things more securely.

The cabin:

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The Deck:

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Beside the not so pleasing place to sleep, the other thing is quite okay. They have enough bathroom and fresh waters to keep us clean. The food is also okay, it’s not a 5 star restaurant quality, but it’s still nice to chomp; and we can have our meal as much as we want.

Final Words

In the end, I will give this Hunting Komodo by Camera from Perama 7/10. It is definitely not as good as Titanic, but I think this is quite okay. And of course, who are expecting for a fancy facilities if you’re looking for an adventure?

There are many other ways to visit Komodo Island. You can just buy a ticket to Labuhan Bajo and go to local tour organizer to Komodo Island, or charter a boat in the port. For me, I prefer this boat trip because it is more adventurous. And since I was travelling alone, going on the boat and live on it for some days is a good way to meet new people. As a result, now I feel more inspired to travel more, share more stories, and inspire more people. Ciao!