Category Archives: Austria

River Raiders

I am a Pisces. The symbol for the Pisces are two fish, which symbolizes adeptness in water. I’m not into that astrological mumbo jumbo but my sign hits the nail right on the head. I love the water and the deeper the better! Even though Austria is landlocked, it’s still riddled with plots of water: lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, all dwelling from the Alps spread throughout the country. I never scuba dived in fresh water before, only in the ocean. I wouldn’t mind it here though, the lakes and rivers were practically crystal clear and clean! There’s a law here on these lakes; no unauthorized motorized water transportation, as it will disturb the peace.

Kevin had to work today, so Alex swooped in to show me around his parents lake house. It’s a snug little place perched right on the edge of the lake in Mondsee. It’s the perfect spot to have a few friends over for a great night on the water.



Along the deck, an army of spiders everywhere. They were really cool looking; not ugly at all. In fact, I’m a big fan of those little guys.


Kevin, Alex, and I planned on going river diving in one of the numerous rivers nearby. The place we went to had us put on layers of water gear, including water gloves, and a hood to cover our heads. It’s more stuff than I’d ever put on before when diving. We walked with a small group about a hundred meters to a river graced with smaller waterfalls and all sorts of marine critters. This was our scenic setting for the river dive.



In order to access the river, we had to leap about four meters off a small cliff. I didn’t have a proper attachment for my GoPro, so I tuck it inside my wetsuit and dove into the river, right behind Kevin. I couldn’t feel the temperature of the water just yet because I was covered in layers of thick swimming gear. It was deep in some areas and shallow in others, but you could always see the floor and everything around you. I retrieved my GoPro from my suit and took action!





The water was cool and clear. We weren’t scuba diving, but instead had snorkels. We’d dive deep into the water with our snorkel and float near the surface in the shallow parts. It was a whole lot of fun and the perfect substitution for actual scuba diving. What a blast!






Krimml Waterfalls (Krimmler Wasserfälle)

Later on, Kevin and I drove about three hours out to one of the tallest waterfalls in all of Austria. I must mention that Kevin has been a trooper with driving me everywhere, just to show me the best of the best around! The drive to the waterfall was a little longer but worth it.




As with all of my hikes as of late, this one was also a windy zig zag up to the very top of the falls. The falls are 380 meters high (1,247 feet) and ice cold. It was an easy day of waterfalls and hiking up, up, and more up.


There is a small town nearby that is so great that there is a place in China that replicated it almost completely the same! It’s this place here…


There’s not much to do here. It’s just a nice place where old people can relax.


My last couple of days in Austria were winding down. Its been 10 days of enjoyable outdoor activities. I was spoiled with more mountains and lakes than I could handle in one small period and I loved every moment of it. On my last full night, Kevin wanted to take me to an Augustiner Bräu in Salzburg.

“What is this place?” I asked Kevin.

“It’s a cool place,” he would say in his Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.

It was a beer tent with big tables and one liter beer mugs just like in Oktoberfest. Not again. Not another beerfest?! I checked myself out like a week ago. But it was my last night, so I had one liter with Kevin and his buddies.


Then I called it quits. No more booze for me for awhile. My liver was put to more work in Europe than ever in my life in such a long period of time. Water became my new best friend.

I gotta hand it to Kevin and Alex. They showed me A LOT! They were the superb hosts and made sure my stay was perfect…and it was! Kevin’s folks also spoiled me rotten. They even folded all my clothes after washing and drying them!


I enjoyed Austria. I’d probably say it is one of my favorite countries in Europe and maybe even overall. The five-star scenery just never ended.

I said my goodbyes and took a blablacar back up to Munich. I spent the night at German Kevin’s place and had dinner with him, his girlfriend Nicole, his roommate Guiren, and also Miriam! The next day I had to catch a flight out of Europe to my next continent of interest.

Thank you to all my Euro friends who hosted me and met up with me. My stay in Europe was cheap (comparatively to most backpackers who travel Europe) and amazing!

I set off to Asia to start a new chapter in this global escapade beginning with a quick stop back to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! 🙂


Wild Blue Yonder

I severely underestimated Austria. The landscapes here are first class and are some of the most awe-inspiring panoramas I’ve ever witnessed. Kevin and Alex live near mountains upon mountains and calm lakes neighboring more calm lakes. This is the countryside of Austria and it was blowing my mind. Save for driving through the winding hilltop roads though! My stomach isn’t privy to those.



Kevin, Alex, and I are on the same page when it comes to traveling around the world. We all love the great outdoors and we all love our GoPro’s. Kevin is the GoPro meister and carries it with him everywhere he goes.




Just like the Germans, the Austrians love their bread. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it doesn’t matter. We ate lots of it. It was easy to make a sandwich and it was accessible at all hours. And also like the Germans, the Austrians really love their beer. Of course their selection isn’t as wide as Germany but Kevin and his buddies can drink like no other. By this point, after months of intense beer training and three days of Oktoberfest, I was fine with never having to drink for a long time. I checked myself out in Munich. Kevin had other plans though. We all went out bar hopping nearby and ended up at a place where they play a game that is definitely not allowed in any American bar I’m familiar with. It’s called Nageln. You basically have a tree stump, a hammer, and some long nails. The goal is to take turns spiking down a nail into the stump using the hammer. The kicker is actually using the opposite side of the hammer (the claw) to accomplish this task. The last person to spike their nail completely into the stump has to buy a round for everyone playing. Fortunately, I was able to edge out one person at my first game. The hammer though…that wouldn’t fly with drunk Americans in our bars!


A little bit away, there was a mountain called Hallstatt, famous for having neat hiking trails near the peaks rather than the base, so most people opt for the cable car. Kevin, Alex, and I drove to that mountain and planned on hiking at the top. It was a really crappy day: brisk, wet, and gray. However, all that would change almost instantly when we rode the cable car up above the dreary clouds.



Just like that, the weather transformed almost like magic. The sky was a clean blue, the sun shone bright, and the landscape was covered in a thick blanket of pure white puff. We couldn’t see anything below us, just clouds. Clouds everywhere.



Up at the top, there were many different paths laid out to trek. We chose a path that led us to another mountain top where we could get a better view of the cloud layer. How can the views get much better? They’re already amazing!

It was quite warm up there. There were no clouds to block the sun, since most of the clouds were now below us. The tops of the mountains didn’t look like ordinary mountain tops. Instead, it resembled a valley of sorts, easily accessible by foot. The trail led us further on to a cliff where we could rest and gaze at the sea of clouds that extended beyond plain eyesight.




We stayed up there for a few hours before we went back to the cheerless reality taking place back on solid earth. We lost view of the mountain peaks and instead were shielded by the dullest of blankets. This day would be one of the only days where it was gloomy and rainy outside. The remainder of my time here in Austria brought upon perfect weather. A great day came about when Kevin took me back into the confines of Germany to a famous river that streamed through a range of highlands. The best way to get through the river was by riverboat, so thats what we used. It was a canal boat similar to the one I used in Amsterdam. And just like everything else in Austria, the scenery was top notch.



There were a few places of interest here at this river: a cool trail, some restaurants, and a few churches. But really I think just sitting and wandering outside was the best.




Austria, so far everything has been so freaking sweet! Both Kevin and Alex have been great to show me around their country. The fun didn’t stop there though. The three of us would join up again later to go river diving. Prepare to be amazed!

World of the Ice Giants

Here is what I know about Austria: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vienna sausages. Also, there’s some bizarre tradition they have where people dress like monsters and beat up other people. This is all I know. The most important fact about Austria though, is that my friend Kevin lives there. I met him right before the jungle party in Koh Tao, Thailand last summer. We’ve kept in touch often and both decided that I will come down to stay with him for several days so he could show me his country. Out of all the European countries I’ve been to so far, my prior knowledge of Austria was the most lacking, so my expectations were bare. I took a Meinfernbus, two hours south of Germany to a city in Austria called Salzburg. There Kevin and his buddy Alex were waiting for me.

Just like before, Kevin spoke like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was pretty amusing to me and he went along with it. “Put the cookie down!” “Get to the chopper!” Since Thailand, Kevin has been doing a lot of working and a lot of music festival partying based on all the photos he’s been showing me on Whatsapp the past few months. His friend Alex just came back about a month ago from a solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. He was actually on the islands too when I met Kevin last year, but he was sick in the hospital the whole time I was around. Kevin and Alex decided we should all have a home cooked meal and so we stopped at a super market, grabbed some grub, and went back to Kevin’s house where they prepared the feast.


Kevin had tons of cool things planned for my visit and I was pretty pumped and game for anything! There is a mountain called Hochkogel Mountain, which is part of the Alps, and inside at the top is the largest ice cave discovered on Earth! The cave is called Eisreisenwelt and it spans 42km deep! That’s humoungous! The drive to the mountain was about an hour or so. I don’t exactly remember because I was passed out most of the drive. But once we made it, we had two options to get to the cave: we could take the cable car up, followed by a short hike or we could hike all the way to the top. Kevin and I opted for the long haul and were the only ones to do so for this day. On our way past the starting point, a lady told us we were wearing the wrong shoes for the hike, as it’s a little difficult. Kevin and I both had on sneakers which were perfect for us, but the woman recommended hiking boots. We said we’re fine and continued on anyways. The fact that everyone else took the cable car up made the hike up the mountain more enjoyable. Kevin and I were the only ones around and the sights around constantly left me in complete awe.


The path up the mountain was indeed slippery. There were unsteady pebbles of rocks laid across the trail and one false step meant an undesirable fate. The trail zig-zagged up the base of the slope, piled with stones, pebbles, and rocks of all sorts of shapes and sizes. At one point I decided to take a short-cut and instead of following the trail, decided to climb straight up which would shave plenty of time. With me deciding to take a shortcut usually turns out to be a really great idea or a really bad one. This was a bad one. Kevin is game for anything also so I convinced him how much easier and more fun it would be to climb straight up instead of following the linear path. Upon beginning, I knew in my head that maybe this wasn’t a good idea, as the rocks I grabbed onto were loose and the bushes and grasses were wet and slippery. If I fell, it meant I would fall and slide down the mountain along with a bunch of stones. I made it up a few meters while Kevin waited to see if I could set a path for him. As he was busy fumbling with his GoPro, I accidentally dislodged a stone the size of my head and it came rolling down past me…straight towards Kevin!

“Kevin! Kevin! Watch out!!” I shouted in a panic.

He looked up and just as he did, he quickly dodged his head as the stone tumbled and flew past his shoulder. We both had an “Oh my God!” look on our faces. I almost just killed Kevin! With that, I proceeded up back to the nearest trail and he wisely decided not to climb up and proceeded along the trail and met me where I stood. My bad Kevin!

After that brief rush of adrenaline, we took it easy; no more daring stunts. We progressed up the mountain and every turn we made led us to another spectacular view of Austria…and it was beautiful.





We stopped a lot to rest and take pictures. Kevin with his GoPro and me with my Nikon. A couple of hours in, we finally made it to the point where the cable car would drop off patrons, but we still had a 20 minute hike ahead. We could see the entrance of the cave from where we were.



I wish I could explore the cave freely. No…not here, this was a guided tour. I dread those words: guided tour. There was a group of about thirty of us waiting at the top for the next phase of the tour to begin. While everyone began to dress up in their winter coats, hats and gloves, Kevin and I were standing there in shorts and t-shirts. Just how cold is this ice cave? The tour guide announced it was zero degrees celsius inside. We had to make do! We’ll be okay…right? I don’t operate well in cold weather.

Upon entering the cave we were blasted with frigid winds! It felt like someone placed a jet turbine in front of Antarctica and set it on full throttle. It was cold! Fortunately the winds only lasted for a few seconds and the inside of the cave was calm…and icy!

“No photography allowed,” said the tour guide.

But why? This isn’t a church or museum. It’s completely natural here. I couldn’t think of a single good reason why we weren’t allowed to take pictures…so I took some anyway! Discreetly of course. We didn’t climb all the way up here for nothing!


The cave is 42km long but we only went into the beginnings of the cave. It started with a steep climb up an iced out wall via a staircase. The stairs led us to a giant chunk of ice in the shape of a wooly mammoth. It wasn’t carved that way, it was completely natural and it really did look like a mammoth!




The cave is comprised of several chambers, some with filled with more ice than others. Each chamber of the cave had a chunk of ice that resembled some kind of giant monster. Use your imagination. Over years, the giant chunks change and deform as water from the outside slowly drips onto the ice. In ordinary caves, you’ll find stalagmites and stalactites and here you would find the same except made completely out of ice and frozen mineral sediments.


The cave itself was cold but bearable. If you ever go here in shorts, you’ll live. The tour lasted for about an hour before we exited back to the chilly winds at the entrance.

For being the largest ice cave on the planet, I decided it’s worthy of being added onto my ATLAS.


No, you’re not allowed to take photos for whatever unknown reasons, but if you have the chance to visit, go ahead and take some! Just turn the flash off and do it when the guide isn’t paying attention. You’re not hurting anyone. Also, if you’re in the mood for a dose of some of the most amazing scenery ever, hike up the mountain! It’s an exercise but the photos will show for it.



Kevin and I decided to also hike back down the mountain and stopped at certain points we missed along the way. The late evening was approaching and the sun beamed its last rays of daylight through the gaps of clouds and mountain peaks. I’d say the hike was the cake and the ice cave were just the sprinkles added to an already delicious dessert.



But wait!

Kevin had more to show me. There is an entirely different world above the clouds. And we’re going there next!