• Expat Life
  • Short hike in Jabal Akdhar, Oman

    Scorching heat, sweat and dry days, this is the time of the year in Oman where everyone is looking for a quick getaway. One of the places to visit during hot season is Jabal Akdhar. Jabal Akdhar which means “Green Mountain” in Arabic is one of the most visited destinations in the country. It is part of the 300km Al Hajar Mountain range, about 50-100km inland from the coast on the Gulf of Oman. At about 10,000 feet above sea level, Jabal Akdhar is undoubtedly one of the highest points here which makes the weather colder than the rest of Oman. It allows the growth of trees and other agricultural plants, that’s why it is referred as the green mountain. The place is very famous for traditional rose water and fruits such as pomegranate and apricot. Trying out these fruits and seeing how the rose water are made, are some of the activities to try up in the mountain. You can check the numerous old villages as well. Jabal Akdhar is a very good place for outdoorsy activities such as camping and hiking.

     

    Weeks back, I were invited by friends to try the new trekking path that was recently opened for the public. A trek near Alila Resort Jabal Akdhar about 7.5km long.

     

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    The road going to Jabal Akdhar is well paved but steep with deep curves so it is necessary to have a 4 x 4 wheel drive vehicle. We were 5 in one 4wd, the preferred number of persons in one vehicle. There is a checkpoint at the base of the mountain soon after Birkat Al Mauz where it is necessary to show a valid resident card or passport to the police too. The area is about 45 minutes’ drive from Nizwa. When we reached the top of the mountain, the weather was very refreshing, around 20-25 degrees Celsius.

     

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    We left Nizwa  around 7.30 am and arrived before 10.00 am on the starting point. We dropped off to some places before we proceeded to the hiking area. We started at small village of Mahabis passing the abandoned village of Al Khutaymi. There is a small parking area for the vehicles on the abandoned village. Not a lot of hikers where there when we started the trek probably because it was a new trail so not a lot knew about it. Marks are present so it wasn’t that hard to follow the trail. All trekking trails in Oman are marked the same. The start of the hike was arduous. It is advisable to bring less things while doing the hike. You need to be careful and watch the steps dropping down the mountain. Rocks were huge but what I love about the area was the wild plants along the path. The oasis in the rocky mountain added to the beauty of the place.There were many good spots to stop and enjoy the wonderful scenery along the trail. Truly I was enraptured by its sublime beauty that offers an escape to solitude.

     

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    The best part of this trip was, we were able to loosen up somewhere in Oman where the weather was very much bearable. The whole hike lasted for 4-5 hours, recommended for a beginner. Trekking in Alila Jabal Akdhar is worth to check! While we were waiting for others to arrive at the end of the trail, the locals gladly greeted and offered us some water. A very welcoming attitude by the locals to the tourists of their place.

     

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    Roaming around Jabal Akdhar we have noticed new luxury hotels on the area. Luxury hotels which I think becoming more common in the gulf countries. Since we were not prepared to try those hotels that time, we will definitely return back next time.

     

    Tips going to Jabal Akdhar:

    Only 4wd is allowed going up the mountain.

    Entry checkpoint to the plateau is at 6 km from Birkat Al Mouz, 15km from Izki, 30km from Nizwa and 155km from Muscat.

    At the checkpoint, have the license driver, resident card or passport ready.

    Diana’s view point is one of the famous spot in Jabal Akdhar. It is called due to the visit of Princess Diana in 1986 to this scenic lookout.

     

    What activity do you want to try in Oman? Share on the comments below.

  • Travel Stories
  • Why my heart belongs to Albay

    I grew up and stayed most of my life in the province of Albay. Albay is part of the Bicol region located on the southern part of Luzon, the biggest archipelago in the Philippines.  Albayanos or the people of Albay, speak the local dialect called Bikol but some terminologies may vary from every town. Albay has been synonymous to the legendary Mayon Volcano.

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    I am enjoying my life working and experiencing different cultures away from home, there will always be a piece of me that will forever missed the province I have lived for years.

    Here are the reasons why my heart belongs to Albay:

    Eco-friendly environment

    Albay is the first province in Bicol to pass ordinance banning the use of plastic bags and other synthetic materials that are harmful to the environment. The ordinance is being followed in the whole province by promoting the use of paper, cloth, banana leaves and other environmental friendly materials. The store owners around the province and the locals are compliant with the ordinance. The local government is doing its best to protect Albay’s ecosystem. Fresh air, clean and green environment are what Albay province offers.

    Delectable spicy food

    Most of the food in the whole Bicol region make use of the “gata” or coconut milk with chili peppers on it. Bicolano cuisine differs from any other Filipino regional cooking because our palate favors spicy flavors. The spiciness and the creamy paste like consistency of the food are the two prominent characteristics of the local cuisine. The food is very enticing. Every bite wants you to eat more. Some of the must try food are bicol express, pinangat and pancit bato. Bicol express is a spicy dish made up of pork, shrimp paste, chili peppers and coconut milk. Pinangat is a gabi or taro leaves chopped into small pieces, wrapped and simmered in coconut milk. Pancit Bato is a type of noodles that originated from Bato, Camsur but very famous all over Bicol. The difference to other pancit or noodles is, it is cooked with shrimps, chinese longanisa and petchay (Chinese cabbage). Most of the small carenderia (restaurant) will serve the local cuisines. Coconut trees, gabi or taro leaves and chili peppers are locally grown so prices are affordable.

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    Pinangat

    I used to eat a lot of sinapot (fried banana covered with flour) and biniribid (deep fried rice flour with coconut milk glazed with brown sugar) and binutong (glutinous rice with coconut cream wrapped in banana leaves). These are my local favorites. These are some of the cheap and tasty snacks sold on the streets that I loved since I were a kid. The vendors will roam around the neighborhood to sell these native delicacy.

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    Biniribid (Photo c/o @werswally)

    Legazpi Boulevard is one of the places to visit in Albay. It is popular place for joggers and families. Locals love this place. There are sidewalk vendors, small stalls and restaurants to choose from. It     has become a hub for a great food trip.

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    Legazpi Boulevard

     

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    @ Legazpi Boulevard

    The ice creams are popular to try because of the unique flavors. Visit 1st Colonial Grill in Daraga, Albay to experience sili (chili) ice cream.  You can choose from mild to super spicy chili ice cream according to your choice. It taste sweet and creamy but will kick spiciness after 5 seconds in your mouth. Colonial Grill added more variants to try like pili and malunggay that are equally mouthwatering.

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    Calamansi with sili (chili pepper) ice cream

    Legaspi four season’s chicken is very well known in Legaspi City, Albay for the fried chicken with     special sauce. One of the best fried chicken I have eaten. Once in Albay, it is something to try.       Albayanos are craving for this!

    Abundant hidden tourism gem destinations

    Albay is blessed with diverse natural attractions. From the majestic Mayon Volcano with its almost perfect cone to black and white sand beaches, waterfalls, hot springs, Spanish churches and ancestral houses, Albay is home to numerous natural, scenic and cultural spots. Locals have been enjoying these hidden remarkable attractions that still remain untouched and waiting to be discovered. Partly due to its pristineness, the province was declared as a Biosphere Reserve in UNESCO’s MAB Programme as it is proud home of approximately 462 flora and fauna species, 137 of which are endemic.

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    Cagraray Island (Photo c/o Toshiya)
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    Old church in Camalig, Albay

    Mayon Volcano dominates the province landscape. It is one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines and in the world. Mayon’s name was derived from the local word “Magayon” which means beautiful. Mayon Volcano is shortlisted in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

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    Sumlang lake, Camalig, Albay

    Cagsawa ruin is a perfect place to take photos with the Mayon. The Cagsawa church was built during     Hispanic time. When an eruption happened in year 1814, it killed thousands of people on that area       including the town of Cagsawa. Only some part of the tower remain. It symbolizes Albay’s rich in       history and people’s strength and adaptability during calamities and disasters.

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    Cagsawa Ruins (Photo c/o David Lee)

    Lignon Hill is a long winding road going up of the hill that provides scenic view of Legaspi City. It is open for joggers and for those who are into sports activities. Zip lining and rappelling are some of the activities to do. Entrance fee costs around 20 php/.40 usd/ .160 omr.

    In Albay we have black sands. No one needs to go Hawaii to see one of the most fascinating pure         black sand beaches in the world. Albay is the home of the finest, very distinct black sands located on the towns of Bacacay, Sto. Domingo and Tiwi.These black sands derived from cooled lava of the       volcano. Something rare to see in the Philippines.

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    Black sands @ Tiwi, Albay (Photo c/o @nikolaicrisostomo)

    Tourist friendly

    Albay is progressing and booming. Every time I visit my province there is always new restaurants or places to discover. There are new tourist spots that are open to the public and new activities to try for leisure, relaxation and travel. There are various development in infrastructures that includes affordable and luxury type of hotels ready to cater all kind of tourists.

    It is accessible by land, air and sea. There is the Legaspi Airport. Right now, there is an ongoing construction of Bicol International Airport, the first in the whole Bicol region. It is a 3.5 billion project on a 200 hectare plateau, 15 km away from the Mayon Volcano. Public transportation are available everywhere. It is easy to go and see neighboring provinces.

    Albayanos are resilient and accommodating

    People are resilient. Despite all the natural calamities and disasters that struck the province, people are persistent to get back on their feet. Albayanos are flexible and have positive attitude towards life. Albayanos will make way to make their visitors feel comfortable and relaxed.

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    How to get there:

    Take a bus from Cubao to Legaspi,the travel time is around 10-12 hours. It costs around 700-1300 php/ 15 – 28 usd/ 5.7 omr- 11 omr. I prefer buses of Cagsawa tours, Penafrancia, Isarog or RSL. These are air-conditioned buses, more comfortable for a long hours of trip.

    One can also travel by plane about an hour and it is worth around 1500-2500php/ 32-53 usd/12- 53 omr.  There are daily flights from Manila to Legaspi.

    To visit popular places like Cagsawa Ruins, Lignon Hill or Legazpi Boulevard, jeepneys or tricycles are the best and cheapest public transportation to take.  Most of the tourist spots are easily accessible by private and public transport.

    Cagsawa Ruins. Take a jeepney going to Camalig or other third district towns (Guinobatan, Polangui or Ligao) and tell the driver to drop you off to road that leads to Cagsawa Ruins located in Busay, Daraga, Albay.  There is a large Cagsawa signage so you will never get lost.

    Lignon Hill. From Legaspi City, take Daraga Loop 1 jeepney and tell the driver to drop you off at the foot of the hill, where there is a tennis court.

    Black sands of Bacacay. Take a jeep or van from Legazpi City bound to Tabaco or any first district towns. Tell the driver to drop you off in San Jose junction and take a tricycle to Brgy. Sogod where the resorts are.

    Albay has a lot to offer – from food, tourist spots, clean environment to safe places to go around. There is so much to see! I am proud to be an Albayano. I am excited to share more about my hometown on the upcoming blog posts!

    Where do you want to go in Albay?  Share on the comments below.