Saturday, 20 August 2016

Lihpao Land - Home to the Craziest Coaster on Earth

When people think of Lihpao Land, one think comes into mind: the insane looking roller coaster called Gravity Max (地心探救). However, Lihpao Land is so much more than that. In fact, I dare say it is one of the best kids oriented theme parks I have visited. Of course, let us not forget the Taiwanese hospitality, clean park and...a rarity in theme parks..."normal" priced food!


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Indoor Rock Climbing @ Camp5 Malaysia

Rock climbing can be both a sport and a tourist activity. Camp5, located at 1 Utama Shopping Center in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia is a popular indoor climbing spot that provides both a good recreational activity for tourists and locals and a comprehensive training ground for the pros. Due to low prices, convenient venue and air-con, it is the preferred overseas rock climbing venue for climbing enthusiasts and interest groups from Singapore.

I have not posted on this blog for a long time, but this climbing trip is special to me because it is the first time I go overseas with friends (without teachers, parents, you know)

This climbing trip to Camp5 is my first overseas trip with friends. Photo credits to Pei Yi.

About Camp5

Camp5 is an indoor rock climbing wall complex that features a large variety of amateur and competitive routes. The difficulty ranges from...well...like climbing up a ladder to...erm...cannot even hold onto the first handhold. Adult ticket is RM33 (SGD11) which is about 30% less than similar complexes in Singapore. However, here is what makes Camp5 so popular in terms of price:

  1. Student price is further reduced to RM22 (SGD7.50). [warning] Camp5 is quite particular that you provide documentation to show your GRADUATION/COMPLETION date, so your NUS/NTU/etc student cards are not enough to get student price.
  2. If you come with kids below age of 8, entry is free but THEY CAN STILL CLIMB!
  3. If you bring UP TO 2 friends along for the first time as a guest, he/she gets free entry (think about it, if you plan to climb for 3 days thats an extra 33% discount for your 2 friends right off the bat). Only valid on weekdays, though
  4. Camp5 checks your climbing proficiency through a questionnaire and interview, so you can practice your lead climbing even before you get your Singapore Level 2 (Lead climbing) cert. 

Also, Camp5 is located at one of the largest shopping complexes and Malaysia, with 2 cinemas, a (reasonably) large arcade and even a diving center! So you will be spoiled for choice in terms of activities, food and shopping. What's even better? By end of 2016 (read: 31 December), 1Utama shopping center will have an MRT station!

Who needs the stairs when you can simply climb from the first floor to the second floor?

Getting There


I know, KL is not known for good public transport. However, there are many ways to get to 1 Utama Shopping Centre where Camp5 is located. Also, the public transport is improving rapidly so very soon there will be more options to travel to Camp5.

  • Taxi: From Berjaya Times Square, the price is about RM30 and takes about 30 minutes provided there is no traffic jam. Similar if you come from KL Sentral and plus 5 minutes from KLCC
  • Bus: Service 800 from KL Sentral takes 45 mins, but it is the cheapest option. Stops at Bandar Utama Bus Terminal just beside the shopping center. There are other buses that come from other parts of KL.
  • MRT: This is interesting. As of July 2016, there is no MRT connection. However, when I was there I saw an MRT station being built. Upon further checking, I can confirm that KL MRT Line 1 which passes through 1 Utama will open in late December 2016. That means we will soon have connection to other popular destinations in KL! Hurray!
  • Singapore KL Coach: This applies mainly for people travelling to Singapore. Some bus companies have services that head directly to 1Utama Shopping Centre. For my group, we took First Coach which departs from Novena in Singapore. You can stop straight at your favourite climbing destination!
MRT station at Bandar Utama is almost completed!

Once you reach 1 Utama, head to the lift nearest to Secret Recipe (if you are at Lower Ground) or Food Republic (if you are at level 2) and head to Level 5. This lift is located in the middle of the L shaped mall along a very long and straight corridor. Camp5 is just outside the lift lobby there.


Accommodations


Climbing is a sport that is very popular among young people (read: student groups). Unfortunately, young people don't have much money, so finding a cheap hotel is a must. Although 1 Utama itself has a few good hotels, you can get a much cheaper deal staying at nearby budget hotels. For my group, we chose One Avenue Hotel, which is about 10 minutes walk from 1 Utama. If you hate jaywalking, don't choose this hotel because we had to jaywalk 3 times to reach the place.

Lobby of One Avenue Hotel

One Avenue Hotel is quite a good choice because it is relatively cheap, has good wifi and, most importantly, it is one of very few budget hotels with a clean, modern toilet. If you want the cheapest possible rooms, take the ones without window. But if you do that, you group will likely oversleep like crazy because there is no sunlight to wake you up. Our average wake up time was 10.15am.

The rooms are very small. So small that my camera lens cannot capture the entire room when i stand a the corner! Later, I realised my trio got the smallest room among the group.

Toilets come standard with rain shower (hot and cold water), water closet, sink and a hose beside the water closet that can be doubled as a wand shower. Some rooms have a proper shower wand and glass partition between the shower and toilet areas.

More on Camp5


Okay, now that we have gotten there, found a place to stay, it is time to start climbing. Camp5 has over 100 lanes you can choose from with over 200 individual routes. You can view the full routelist here.

There are showers provided but NO SOAP is provided. There are also complimentary lockers provided but you need to bring your own lock. In general, there are sufficient lockers even on crowded days and you can squeeze 2-3 people's stuff inside 1 locker. Shoe rental is available at RM7 for people like me who just don't climb often enough to justify buying my own shoes, and so is harness (RM5) and chalk (RM3).

[note] Unlike Singapore, it is not safe to put your valuables on the floor when climbing. Use the lockers.


Now onto the walls themselves. On the routelist, you will see some letters and numbers that represent climbing lanes. Simply look at the bottom of the rock wall to tell which lane wall you should START climbing. Some lanes may have more than 1 route, and some routes will pass into other lanes. The boulder walls (so short that no harness is required) are classified into 3 main areas: training room, boulder cave and highball.

  • The training room is a good private space where you can climb with your friends because the pros don't usually go in often. I also find the routes there very interesting and requires some unorthodox techniques to complete.
  • The boulder cave area has a lot of overhangs and reverse slopes and is a good place to practice more advanced routes and moves. Difficulty goes up to 7b+ in this area and the easiest overhang route is a 6a.
  • The highball area is good for recreational and group climbing because it has a wide range in terms of difficulty, from the 5b which are like climbing the stairs to (I think) 7a that will kill all but the experienced climbers. Also, the O and P sections of the wall are not fully vertical so its a good place for beginners to get a feel.
Training Room

Boulder Cave
The highwall area is located on the 2nd floor and is divided into 2 areas: top rope and lead climbing. Harness is required for all highwalls and rope is required for lead climbing. In addition, there is an auto belay wall near the entrance.  I personally like the normal top ropes because the auto belay device leaves no room for mistakes - once you fall, the device will bring you straight to the bottom and you have to try again.

  • Autobelay area: Perfectly vertical wall with minor overhangs at the top (to demoralise you when you think you are about to finish). As mentioned, once you make a mistake you have to restart so it is a good way to train confidence and planning ahead. First attempt is very scary
  • Highwall: As with the boulder area, difficult ranges from climbing up a staircase 5b to a ridiculous 7+ (not sure exact rating). Some of the 5c/6a routes have overhang sections (but are quite easy) so it is a good chance for less experienced climbers to try overhangs. There is also a small area with fake natural rock.
  • Lead Climbing: Also a highwall, but it this case there are no ropes set up so you have to "set up" the rope yourself as you climb up. Note: Lead climbing is very, very scary and can be dangerous for untrained climbers. The route I tried is ridiculously easy on normal top rope mode, but after 30 mins I cannot even finish it on lead climb. You need to bring your own rope (min 50m length) to use this area.
[note] Camp5 does not provide Belayers (other than the auto-belay area), so at least 1 person in your group needs to be confident in belaying before you can do the highwall.

This area is the lead climb section. Looks really impressive from the highball area

Or how about fake natural rock?

Anyways, speaking about route difficulty, maybe I should share with you how the difficulty scale works. Please note that Camp5 uses the french system. I also place the American Yosemite Decimal System in bracket so you can compare:

  • 5b/5b+ (5.8): Ridiculously easy. If you are an adult it will feel like climbing a ladder. Kids may still find it challenging as they cannot reach. Mostly easy holds.
  • 5c/5c+ (5.9): Slightly easy. There will usually be 1 or 2 places where you need to use some thinking (special moves), strength to get pass. May have 1-2 difficult holds along the way, but there is often always a good hold nearby.
  • 6a/6a+ (5.10a/b): Moderate. Here is where you jump from the general public casual climber to a serious climber. At 6a, techniques like sitting in, cross stepping and smearing becomes mandatory. Some holds are quite difficult to use. This is also the last difficulty level where raw strength will get you through.
  • 6b/6b+ (5.10c/d): Difficult. Only 1-2 members of my group (I am NOT one of them) can complete 6b routes. Advanced techniques are mandatory and holds also start to become ridiculous. I cannot even start some 6b routes.
  • 6c and above (5.11): If you are at this level, I don't need to explain to you.
My friends told me that the routes in Malaysia are harder than their equivalents in Singapore. Since I have not climbed for 3 months, I shall not comment about this.

For the pros, you can entertain yourself with the pro wall and the campus board. Note that you need to get endorsement by 3 pro-climbers before you can even attempt the wall. Of course, you can try to pretend you are pro and persuade the pro climbers to sign for you but you will probably just embarrass yourself at the very prominent pro wall.

This is the pro wall. On the day(s) I went, I did not see anyone complete this

I can barely hang 2 seconds on this thing, let alone move up and down

Other than that, Camp5 also has a small cafe. However, who eats there when you are at 1Utama shopping center with so many restaurants that are like 30% cheaper than Singapore! There is also a small climbing shop that sells shoes, harness, chalk - pretty much everything you need for climbing, but the price is about the same as Singapore so no point buying there. Camp5 offers training courses for additional fee. 

[warning] Camp5 training takes priority over your climbing, so they will block off some areas when they conduct classes. If you are a pro climber this is not a problem because they usually take the easy lanes for classes (duh!)

1Utama: Shopping anyone?


Let us not forget that Camp5 is located in 1Utama shopping center, one of the largest shopping complexes in Malaysia. In fact, I consider this place like Genting Highlands without the cold weather. The best thing is that you can enjoy restaurant grade food at prices 30-40% cheaper than Singapore (how about main course and azuki latte from Nanas at just RM30 (SGD10)). Just beware that some restaurants charge 6% GST separately and some don't.

Here are some of the other attractions at 1Utama:
  • Bowling alley with more than 30 lanes
  • 2 Full sized cinemas
  • Karaoke with over 30 rooms
  • Diving Center (I know, WTF?)
  • Arcade (considered quite big for nowadays standard)
  • Kids play area called "Starship Galactica" of all things (maybe lets introduce to them Battlestar Galactica at USS)
  • Batting range
Why am I too old to enter this play area?

This kind of ride used to be very popular. In Singapore a "train" ride like this will cost SGD6


There is also an Ikea nearby, but you probably will never visit that. Once the MRT opens end of this year, you can also gain access to the curve which is another big shopping center 2 stops away. Finally, here are some recommended attractions if you are the young, physically active person:

  • District 21 at Putrajaya. Think indoor version of Megazip Adventure Park. There are ropes courses, slides, confidence jumps and a zip-line roller coaster. The parachute jump is a good way to build up confidence for lead climbing.
  • Sunway Lagoon. The most popular theme park in Malaysia, Sunway lagoon offers a good mix of thrilling and physically intense attractions. Paintball, go kart and bungee jumping costs extra.
  • Batu Caves. This beautiful limestone cave is one of the most impressive natural sights around the KL area. You can visit the traditional Indian Temples and witness the religious ceremonies. For myself, my favourite part is going on a nature expedition into the Dark Cave. Apparently I heard you can also rock climb there but I don't know about that

The Verdict


I think Camp5 is a great place for the dedicated and amateur climber. There are sufficient routes and they can accommodate people of all skill levels. It is not as good as the larger rock wall complex Putrajaya, but it is still more popular because of good transport access, availability of food and entertainment and proximity to some budget hotels. It is an ideal 1/2 day stop for the sports oriented tourist group and climbing fans may find themselves spending entire days inside.

Staff are generally quite polite and enthusiastic but they will still shout at you if it is about safety (which is a good thing). 

However, for first time climbers, I personally think it is good if you have tried at least 1 climb at Genting Highlands, Cruise Ship, etc if, and only if you happen to visit those places before. (don't go those places specially to try once. Not worth). Also, to enter the "members area" you need to be accompanied by an experienced climber (with at least level 1 certification), if not you can only do the auto-belay area. So this is not the place for you if your whole group has no experience climbing.

  • Variety of Routes: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Child Friendliness: ☆☆☆
  • Beginner Friendliness: ☆☆
  • Toilet/Locker Facilities: ☆☆☆
  • Operations: ☆☆☆
  • Overall Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Other Tips:
  • The place is very crowded on Weekends but is quite empty before 2pm and after 8pm on weekdays. On weekends, the place closes at 8pm.
  • I personally don't like the showers at camp5. If your hotel is nearby it is preferable to shower in your hotel. Don't worry its air-con so you won't sweat so much.
  • Ticket is valid for 1 day with unlimited entry that day, so you can go out and eat and shop before coming back to climb
If you like this post, don't forget to like the Second Drop Facebook Page

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Analysis of Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport is one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world, and possibly one of the best as well. Actually, this is the second time I am passing through Hong Kong International Airport, with the first time five years ago. The biggest change since then is the opening of Terminal 2. Thankfully, the changes do not include lost in service quality or increase in queue times.

I hope this blog post will help you enjoy the airport better, and maybe even decide where to make your transit!


Friday, 11 December 2015

Ocean Park Hong Kong Trip Report

The last time I visited Ocean Park Hong Kong was in 2010. At that time, a lot of things were under construction and I found the park somewhat lacking. When I came back in December 2015, the park was totally transformed! The landscaping had improved, there were more rides and even toilets could finally come close to USS standards. Honestly, I was not expecting such a dramatic transformation, and I was impressed by what the team at Ocean Park Hong Kong has done.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report

Hong Kong Disneyland may be smaller than all other Disneyland parks, but it still one of the top 10 most popular theme parks in Asia. In fact, having visited multiple theme parks, some focusing on big roller coasters, others on marine life, I personally still think that Hong Kong Disneyland offers the best theme park experience. In this blog post, I will give you a little glimpse of this beautiful park and explain to you why I think Disney continues to dominate the theme park industry.