Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Sunday Adventure

On Sunday we went on a tour with a local tour company.  The tour included a family hike up a mountain outside of the special economic zone of Shenzhen.  We hiked up this overgrown rock path to a deserted village.  The village was deserted in the 70's when Shenzhen opened up many factories and people went to live in the city to work.  This entire village just up and left!  They left in a hurry, too.  There were baskets and pottery, dishes, even shoes left everywhere.  We saw their school, temple, several homes.  It was very interesting.  Unfortunately, we had a torrential downpour while we were there!  We were caught  out hiking when it started raining really hard.  As you can see from the pictures, Nicholas loved it!  It was a warm rain, so we were ok.  Just soaked.
Ironically, after we were done sliding back down the mountain path, which had become virtually a little river, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  We changed out of our wet clothing into our swimming suits and went to a beach!  The beach we went to is called "White Horse Beach" because brides come there to take their picture with a white horse and then also several other posed shots on the beach.  While we were there we saw many couples getting their pictures taken.  At one point I counted 8 brides lined up in the various photo spots.  There are a lot of people in China, hence a lot of weddings!  It is common to see couples getting their pictures taken whenever we go sight-seeing.
The boys had fun playing in the water, but it was actually quite a dirty beach.  There was lots of trash strewn around.  Don't come to China for the beaches.  You will be disappointed.  We did find some nice shells, though.

 Hiking to the abandoned village.

 Big Toad!
 Interesting mushroom.
 An insect we thought was unusual.
 Thomas, Jonathan, and Nicholas in the village school.  Jonathan playing teacher!
 The village temple.  It still has items on the altar.
 Painting above the door in the temple.
 Picture on the temple door.
 Nicholas enjoying the hard rain!
 The jungle is overtaking the village buildings.

 White Horse Beach
 Many brides getting their pictures taken.
 REALLY fake palm trees!

 Chinese characters painted on a rock.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wanderings in Penang, Malaysia!

We just got back from an adventurous trip in Malaysia!  We thought we were going to have a calm, beach vacation, but instead ended up trying a new adventure each day.  Our rented villa was not on the water, nor did it have a pool, so we ended up exploring instead of sun-bathing.

We hiked through the rainforest to a meromictic lake (one of only 19 in the world).  It is interesting as it has both sea water and fresh river water, which does not mix but instead forms layers.  Near this lake was the beach where many sea turtles come to lay their eggs and rest at night.  We found a piece of a sea turtle shell. We did not see any turtles because they come to shore at night.  We did see monkeys jumping through the trees during our hike, however, as well as some interesting birds and butterflies.

We went on a fishing trip and caught several fish.  Our guide took us to Monkey Beach (aptly named as there were many monkeys running wild all over the place!) where he cooked our fish and some other Malaysian foods (Thomas' new favorite-satay-pieces of marinated, grilled chicken or beef on a stick) over a wood grill.  We went for a bumpy jungle ride on a four-wheeler while we were there, too.

We went to George Town, a World Heritage site.  We saw a Colonial Fort, some beautiful old Colonial buildings, all from when the British colonized Malaysia.  We ate some yummy food in Little India.  Mostly we admired how the Malaysians accept one another and live peacefully with so many different cultures and religions.  There are mainly Chinese and Indian Malaysians living here.  There are Christian churches, Muslim Mosques, Buddhist Temples and Hindu Temples.  We got to see several of each during our trip.

Our favorite temple we saw was the Snake Temple.  This temple has pit vipers living in it!  They are free to roam around wherever they like.  During the day, thank goodness, they mainly sleep.  There were sleeping snakes everywhere we looked.  Our sons wanted to pet the vipers and get their pictures taken with them.  They had one available for holding.  They take the venom out of a few for tourists to play with. At least that is what they told us. They also had Burmese pythons there to rub for good luck.  They even had a snake room with all sorts of snakes behind glass walls for us to observe.  Several King Cobras decided to spit at us from behind the glass.

We rode up Penang Hill (2000 meters above sea level) on a funicular train, built by the British in the early 1900's to go up the mountain to escape the heat.  On top of the hill is a mosque, a Hindu temple, some old colonial buildings, a carnivorous plant garden, a bird sanctuary and a hotel.  We also visited a butterfly farm another day.

Another favorite on this trip was trying out a "fish massage".  You put your feet in a pool of water filled with little fish who proceed to suck on your feet!  Quite a giggle fest!  Nicholas just could not do it.  Jonathan laughed out loud for a full 15 minutes.  :)  Thomas, Mike and I managed to keep our feet in most of the time and get the full effect.

One of our favorite parts about visiting Malaysia was trying all the food!  We went to a type of "food court" for dinner each night.  It was outside, but had vendor stalls set up around the eating tables.  We could each choose whatever type of food we wanted (Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Western..).  Everyone was happy! Yumm...

Here are a few pictures....

 Fort Cornwallis

Local legend states that women who are having trouble bearing children are to put flowers inside the cannon.

 George Town City and Town Hall Buildings

 This temple was part of the set for some of the filming for the movie, "Anna and the King".

 The third largest reclining Buddha in the world.  This is in a Thai temple in Malaysia.

 Urns for the ancestors.

 The Butterfly Farm

 Hiking in the Rainforest.
 The meromictic lake in the Penang National Park.  

 Monkey Beach
 Oh, it just tickled so badly!!  

 Yummy!  Thomas eating the Malaysian Satay, pizza for Jonathan, Indian for Kristie and fish for Mike!
 Some short video clips of our time in the Snake Temple.

 The ride up Penang Hill was beautiful and lots to do at the top.

 The Hindu Temple on top of Penang Hill

This Blue Macaw said "Hello" and did some great head bobbing with us!  Smart bird.