Hiking matters #92: Southeast Asia is our common heritage!

KUALA LUMPUR – There is no denying that this big city has become the hub for adventurers in Southeast Asia. It is located at the heart of Southeast Asia, connecting the mainland countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) with the archipelagic states (Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei). The presence of low-cost carriers such as AirAsia, and our own Cebu Pacific, has helped establish KL’s place as the hub for backpacking and adventure travel in the region. This is my second time here but KL is still quite indecipherable for me! But I find Chinatown a very nice place and a lot of backpackers converge here. Our backpackers’ lodge of choice is Back Home, a very efficient, affordable outfit in Chinatown.
With the advent of cheap travel, the world has become smaller, and this is especially true for our neigborhood. Malaysian trekkers are very fortunate, they can fly to the revered high peaks of Indonesia; they can go to Hanoi and Chiang Mai by just one flight; and they can also go to Clark very easily to climb Mt. Pulag. But they’re not the only ones who have this advantage. We too can take advantage of the increasingly accessibility of Southeast Asia. We are, after all, citizens of this region and there’s so much to see; there’s so much beauty around us! Our friends Zaidi Bidin and Shaun Yap from Malaysia have nice mountain blogs. Check them out!
We’ve just come back from Java, Indonesia and we climbed four mountains there: Gunung Merapi, Gunung Bromo, Kawah Ijen, and Gunung Lawu. All of them were very nice and I’d love to come back. Guess what? I just spent 500 pesos for roundtrip airfare! The food is very delicious and reasonable; they have great recipes for duck and lamb! And like the Philippines they have so many fruits but unlike us, they have made all of them into delicious juices (i.e. there’s guava juice in every restaurant!)
The similarity of our culture with Indonesia in Malaysia is manifest in our languages. In Bahasa, they count from 1-5 as such: satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima. Sounds familiar? But it is not just manifest in language or culture; it is also manifest in our very appearance! In many parts of the world things may be different but Southeast Asia is one place where we will be accepted. In a village in Yogyakarta, some elderly women were so delighted about how we looked like some of their grandchildren that they gave us some delicious fruits!!
PinoyMountaineer is committed to be a part of this ‘regionalization’. While at KL International Airport, I was thrilled to see PinoyMountaineer.com mentioned in Lonely Planet Southeast Asia Guidebook as the recommended website for Philippine trekking. We will work to make the website more visitor-friendly, and we will come up with recommended “must visits” for hikers who would want to visit the Philippines. Also, hopefully we can also make more friends around the region. We can, and we should form bonds and make correspondences with our fellow mountaineers from other ASEAN countries, and maybe do some exchange visits/ exchange climbs with them! (If you’re from another country and you want to climb in the Philippines you can email me at gideon@pinoymountaineer.com)
We are not just Filipino mountaineers; we are ASEAN adventurers. There are many beautiful mountains in the region, not just the popular Gunung Kinabalu (though it’s one of the best; I celebrated Christmas 2008 there with my family). There are over a dozen 3000+ meter mountains in Indonesia alone, and this includes Puncak Jaya, one of the Seven Summits and neighboring peaks with cool names such as Trikora.
I visited Batu Caves within KL, and the Bird Park, plus some museums. I may blog about it too, sometime. A few hours from now we will be heading to Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the famed temples of Angkor. And then we will climb mountains Northern Thailand. I invite you all, let’s climb more ASEAN mountains in the future. A continuing thanks to Del Bahena, Coby Sarreal, Bianca Silva, and Julian Canero who have accompanied me in this journey!

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