Where to go for extreme sports adventures

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Gunning to scale the next frontier? TOS’s resident adventuress Charlene Fang zones in on the local and regional sporting grounds that present a real challenge

First published on 8 Jun 2010. Updated on 8 May 2012.

Photo (above): Rory Daniel

Rock climbing

You’ve tagged on with the Climb Asia (www.climb-asia.com) crew to boulder across the rocks at Dairy Farm so many times you’ve begun to name the crevices. And it is only after a hard night of drinking that the Via Ferrata (www.borderx.com.sg) wall holds a challenge for your overhang skills. This is when you should brave Asia’s rock climbing capital Krabi, where over 700 routes dotted around the limestone cliffs of Ao Nang and Railay beach await your grappling pleasure. Clearly marked out so you don’t find yourself on an 8c (advance) route when you have the skills of a 5a (beginner), courses such as Missing Snow, the rock-and stalactites Smoking Room and the steep Crossed-Eyed rock wall are ones to aim for. The area’s challenging-yet picturesque climbs are just one pull factor; add in the crystal-clear water and relatively untouched natural setting, and no wonder climbers from all over congregate here. While it can get busy on the craggy rocks, the numbers also mean you’ll never be short of post-climb drinking buddies.

Side trips: Diving, hiking, sea canoeing or just lazing on Krabi’s pristine beaches will keep you well occupied. The nearby Mo, Tup and Chicken islands also provide excellent snorkelling opportunities.

Get there: Fly direct on Tiger Airways (www.tigerairways.com) and hit up one of the many schools dotted about to brush up your skills or to find a climbing partner.

Surfing

Surfing is impossible here, so what’s your next best option? Rolling with a simulated experience at Wavehouse (36 Siloso Beach Walk; 6377 3113, www.wavehousesentosa.com). When you’re no longer wiping out on the FlowRider and FlowBarrel, head to the quiet island of Lombok. Popularly seen as the Bali of yesteryear, it pulls in surfers with its pristine water and rugged reef breaks. While Desert Point with 20-second barrels and unbeatable left-hand waves remains a top spot, the not-so skilled surfer will feel less intimidated by the swell at Lakey Peak and Periscopes. For the ‘executive surfer’ who prefers to do without the hassles of organising, Heaven on the Planet (www.heavenontheplanet.co.nz) does all the dirty work and offers access to a virtually private surf break between Lombok’s Ekas and nearby Southern Reef area.

Side trips: After being tossed about in the surf, jump on a boat to nearby Gili Trawangan for a more languid break. Home to limpid waters, a seemingly endless supply of fresh seafood and the unbeatable combination of cheap booze, reggae bars and stunning sunsets, you’ll leave considering walking barefoot and sarong-clad for the rest of your life.

Get there: Fly direct on SilkAir (www.silkair.com).

Mountain climbing

When 166m counts as the highest point on this island, it won’t take long – or much training – to scale Bukit Timah Hill. As soon as your calves and thighs no longer ache from the run up and down, book a slot for Kota Kinabalu. While it stands at an imposing 13,435ft, the tropical climate makes it a lot easier to scale the height than attempting the same in Alpine climes. Ease the load and get porters to lug your belongings up for MYR$8 (S$3.50) per kilogram. A two-prong trek, the first ascent to Laban Rata will be a good gauge of one’s fitness levels before the second stage where you’re woken up at the dead of the night for a two to three hour trek up the remaining 2,600ft – some of it on naked granite rock – before reaching Low’s Peak for the stunning sunrise. The more seasoned climber should attempt the Via Ferrata path; the fixed-climb route will have you hanging off the cliffside with nothing but a double carabiner and four other people attached to you. What a rush!

Side trips: Indulge in a seafood feast – we recommend New Gaya Seafood Restaurant (Lot A & B, Wisma Lucky Centre, Jln Kianson; +60 8842 6075) – followed by some well-deserved partying at the Razz-Ma-Tazz disco club located along Jalan Tuaran. Shake off the hangover with a day trip out to Manukan and Sapi islands, but beware the sand flies.

Get there: Fly direct on Jetstar Airways (www.jetstar.com). Advance reservations are required at Laban Rata, consult Borneo Global Backpackers (www.bgbackpackers.com) for a climbing package.

Kite surfing

Now that you’re doing bunny hops and wakeboard flips with ease, it’s time to take things up a notch. Get some wind into your sails with some kite surfing action. The dual-duty sport is only just catching on here in wind-challenged Singapore. While Mana Mana (www.manamana.com) runs lessons (by appointment), getting lifted depends largely on your luck with the breeze. Save yourself the frustration and book a week of lessons in Mui Ne, Vietnam. There you’ll be guided on everything from assembly to lift-off, and reading the winds. Should you advance past the stage of dragging your body through the water – ie, flying the kite while wet – you’ll need to learn how to lift the kite up again should you fall – think of it as diving’s equivalent to weight-belt removal/retrieval. The reward is priceless; imagine soaring through the air along and taking in the view – it’s as close as you get to you being Icarus.

Side trips: Where extreme sports exist, so do party animals, and on Mui Ne they all come together at the Sailing Club (24 Nguyen Dinh Chieu; +84 62 384 7440) and Gecko (51B Nguyen Dinh Chieu; +84 623 74 1033). Don’t miss the golden, red and white sand dunes close by; they’ll take your breath away.

Get there: Jetstar Airways (www.jetstar.com) operates direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City. From HCMC, take a bus/train or private car to Mui Ne. Once you’re there, make a beeline for Jibe’s (84-90 Nguyen Dinh Chieu; +84 623 847 008, www.windsurf-vietnam.com), the first kite surfing school set up there.

By Charlene Fang
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