CNY 2020 – Day 19 – Langkawi Cultural Craft Complex

I love fair trade. I love supporting artisans and artists. This kind of stuff was really big in Indonesia and it turns out there’s quite a bit of it on Langkawi too.

I got myself a new shaker egg to use at the next Sundaze gig

My wonderful husband knows that I love these things, so when he read that Langkawi has a Culture Craft Complex, he made sure to take me there. It’s a pretty cool place!

There are all sorts of artisans featured here

The complex has everything. Wood carving, pottery, glass blowing, textiles, clothing, jewelry… You name it, they make it!

I was particularly impressed by their paintings. We saw some of the artists working on them while we were there. Such colorful and vibrant artistic style!

There is also an educational aspect to the complex. There are several displays set up that teach you about Malaysia’s art and culture. Some displays focus on wedding attire across the various cultures found in Malaysia, and others focused on the history of Aboriginal art.

There’s also a “stingless bee farm” at the craft complex, and soap is made from the wax of these bees.

They offer glass blowing demonstrations at the craft complex too, but we happened to visit on the one day of the week they didn’t have a show.

They also have some displays showing how sugar cane juice was processed back in the day

You could easily spend hours at the craft complex, if you have some free time and a husband who doesn’t mind being dragged around to look at scarf after scarf.

The woodwork was what impressed Dave the most

We made it through in about an hour, but I think 30 minutes more would have been nice. The complex is free by the way, you only pay for what you buy… And with so many beautiful choices, you’re bound to leave with something!

They do a really good job with their displays too!

CNY 2020 – Day 17 – Laman Padi

In the hot Malaysian heat, some days you just want to be indoors where it’s cool. That’s how we found our way down to Laman Padi this week.

This is what time looks like shortly before it’s ready for harvest

There’s quite a lot to see there, actually. They have rice paddies in various stages of growth so you can see the process of growing this grain.

You can see that the rice in the back is older than the rice in the foreground. Rice is actually a kind of grass and it becomes more yellow as it gets closer to harvest time
Rice needs lots of water to grow. Often, rice is grown on the side of hills and mountains and Farmers create little walls to trap water as it rolls down
The rice on the left is very young. Notice that it’s growing in a field with several inches of water in it

There is also a museum that teaches about the tools that are used, and tools that used to be used for farming rice. The museum is nice and cool and full of neat things to see.

A quaint little museum
Tools that were historically used in rice farming
Drying rice in the sun. Of course now, they have more efficient methods

Mostly, the Laman Padi was nice because it was quiet, there was lots of indoor space, so we could stay cool, and there was a surprising amount of wildlife there.

Egrets are often found in rice paddies
Water buffalo are still used in farming in some places and are also a common site in rice paddies
I’m not sure what kind of bird this is. Perhaps another kind of egret?
They had scarecrows to try and keep the birds away. I think the birds were onto them because they didn’t seem to care a whole lot

With an extra week away from China, we’ve been careful to budget our money a bit better. Laman Padi is free and if you’re there and keen, staff will show you around and explain things. Dave and I chose to do the tour solo though. After living in China for nearly 6 years (7 for me!), We know a lot about rice already.

Nice place got a rest!

I’ve got some fun posts about monkeys and Langkawi’s food scene coming up!! Check back soon!!!

CNY 2020 – Day 16 – Gunung Raya

Gunung Raya is the tallest peak on Langkawi island. We discovered it while driving around and exploring the island by motorbike. With beautiful views and a scenic ride up the mountain, it was a nice way to spend an hour and a half.

The open road

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the peak by motorbike. There is a nice lookout there and you get a really nice view of the island, the ocean and even Thailand in the distance. There’s some information on the myths surrounding this part of the island, as well as information about the area’s geological history.

This is the real reason to go up to the peak. Such a beautiful place to see the sun set!!

Unfortunately, whole area is pretty run down. The signs explaining the area’s geography are sun bleached, and a lot of it was actually quite difficult to read. It’s like the tourism bureau just forgot about this place…

The signs are badly sun bleached and need replacing
I couldn’t even read all of the English parts

There used to be a hotel up at the peak where people could stay. They also had restaurants in the hotel and a lookout tower to see the whole island from up high. Now it’s all abandoned and kind of spooky.

When we first drove up, I thought it was a prison.
I’m surprised no one tried to turn it into a tourist cafe or something.
I’m sure it was a beautiful hotel in its day
I’m impressed that the place hasn’t been totally vandalized at least! Just general weathering and decay.

All in all, I’d recommend the trip up to the summit if you have a motorbike. The views are pretty and you’ll likely see some wildlife (birds and monkeys are everywhere on this island). Don’t expect anything extravagant, but if you’re looking for something free that involves some stellar views, this is a great way to spend some time!

The view from right in front of the lookout tower
Beautiful!!

CNY 2020 – Day 15 – CHOGM Park

Although our mornings have been pretty lax, and we’ve been getting plenty of pool time, we’ve been trying to be more active in the evenings. Each night we try to take a walk somewhere nice. We ended up in Kuah, at a lovely little park on our 3rd night on Langkawi.

Beautiful clear skies

It’s a really nice place to go for a walk, especially at sun set. It’s right along the coast, so as the sun goes down, you get a spectacular view.

Lots of trees too!

The park isn’t super well maintained anymore but I’m sure it was beautiful in it’s time. It was set up in 1989 for a Commonwealth meeting. The park’s name CHOGM) actually stands for “Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting”.

Even though it isn’t super well maintained anymore, it’s still a nice place to go for a walk

You won’t find washrooms or food stands anywhere but entrance is free and you can go in any time. There are benches set up throughout the park and a nice pathway along the man made beach.

A little peace and beauty can go a long way when things are as crazy as they have been.

Nice little pathway
A relaxed cat, enjoying the sunset

CNY 2020 – Day 11 – Down by the River

We spent a lot of time there rapid shooting, cruising around and getting back and forth from the national Park.  We even ate on the river! The Tembeling River was a big part of our stay in Kuala Tahan. It was the best place to cool down and a beautiful place to spend some time.

There was a lot of sedament in the river after our big rain storm but the water was pretty clean.
If you want to take a river cruise, you can talk to the same guy who takes people across the river to the national Park (the fee to get across the river is 1rm. The fee for a ‘boat Cruise’ is 10rm)
A boat just like the one we were in
The river is also where you can find some of the town’s restaurants, in floating buildings.
The Tembeling River acts as a border between the town and the National Park (Taman Negara). This is a shot of the town from the national park’s entrance.

Our river boat cruise was quite nice. It gave us a chance to take some nice pictures of the river and we also saw some wild life, including a monitor lizard and monkeys. The lizard got away before we could get photos but the monkeys stuck around for a while!

These are long tailed Macaques
They live in big family groups so if you see one, there are probably 20 others nearby
This one was hanging out on some electrical wires

There is also a beach area where you can go swimming in the river. It’s about a 20 minute walk through the national Park to get there, but it’s all on a boardwalk path and is a lovely way to spend 20 minutes!

One of the best feelings in the world is to jump into some cool water after a sweaty hike, so when we arrived at the beach for the first time, we jumped right in!

Such a nice setting!

Before we knew it, a family of about 30 long tailed Macaques were swinging from the branches nearby. We watched them for about an hour. It was beautiful peaceful and lovely just watching them play. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our camera during that particular trip so I don’t have photos of them, but I do have a video from my phone. You can see a monkey jumping from one tree to the next.

They came in from the right side and moved down, jumping from tree to tree lazily. We saw mommas with babies clinging to their bellies and bigger males too

We actually decided to go back to this beach on our last day in the jungle but we were less fortunate on that trip. The heavy rainfall resulted in an unreasonable number of leeches on the forest floor. They’re different from leeches in Manitoba, which tend to be fatter and mostly live in water.

Dave had one latch on really badly and his foot didn’t stop bleeding for ages. Worst of all, the scent of the blood must have attracted other leeches because by the time we made it back out of the jungle, he had at least 10 more try to latch on!!
I only had 2 or 3 luckily. I kept checking between my toes 😂

The river was lovely nonetheless. I would caution anyone from going down that way after a lot of rain though, unless you don’t mind these creepy crawlers latching on!!

Dave made a video of this one trying to make it back to us

Here are some more lovely river videos to erase the vision of leeches from your mind!

The name of the beach
Nice little areas where you can relax

It really was a gorgeous place to spend some time!

CNY 2020 – Day 10 – Welcome to the Jungle!

Malaysia is home to many endemic species and some of the oldest rainforests on Earth. We knew that when we actually decided to travel here (we’ve passed through in the past), at least some of our time would be spent hiking through national parks. After all, who can resist walking through greenery this beautiful?

The National Park where we were staying had nice boardwalks we could walk along. They are mostly well maintained and much safer (and easier for people nursing foot injuries, like me!)

On our second day in Taman Negara National Park, we saw plenty of wildlife. We had planned to do the Canopy Walk that day, but we got a lot of rain the night before, which had flooded the trails and left debris everywhere so the walk way was closed.

We decided to take a walk anyway, in an area that hadn’t been as affected by the rain.

We also took a jungle walk that evening. With a guide and some flashlights, we head off into the rainforest after dark, looking for nocturnal species and sleeping jungle friends.

We saw sleeping lizards right away.

I’ll admit, I was nervous before going into this because I knew that there would be a lot of spiders to see. Still, I rarely let stuff like that stop me from having fun. But there are seriously soooo many spiders in the jungle, guys. Big ones too!

Oh yeah…. And when I say “sooo many”, I mean they’re all over the jungle floor. They’re easy to spot because their eyes and spots on their legs light up under a flashlight. Stuff of nightmares, right there!

Spiders weren’t the only thing to see though. We saw 2 different kinds of snakes (both sleeping) and also a snake skin that had been left behind by its shedding host.

This guy was sleeping high up in the trees. Dave spotted him.

We also saw scorpions! They were only visible under black light, but the guide knew where they were because they usually hang out in the same holes.

These aren’t as poisonous as the ones in the desert but they’ll still do a number on you.

We also saw various moths and sleeping birds on this walking tour. We saw several stick insects and a millipede too! But the coolest thing we saw was a slow loris!

He’s upside down in the tree. We watched him move slowly down for some leaves, and then he moved back up into the tree when he’d eaten the ones he was interested in.

Slow Lorises are nocturnal animals that live on fruit and leaves. They’re one of the only venimous mammals on Earth and their venom is actually strong enough to kill a human. Still, there is a demand for them in illegal black markets because people like to try and keep them as pets. You’ve probably seen cute videos online of Lorises raising their arms to be tickled. It’s not cute: it’s one of the ways they try to defend themselves. They’re terrified.

This is what they look like. They move very slowly (you might have guessed that) and they’re a type of primate. Very interesting animals.

I really enjoyed our walk through the jungle at night! I hope to never see another huntsman spider, but I’d risk it if there was a chance to see another Loris!!

CNY 2020 – Day 8 – Getting to the Jungle

Travel days can be a bit of a bummer, but when your travel day involves going deep into a 130 million year old rain forest, things get a lot more interesting!

It was quite the long trip across the country. There are several ways to get there. We decided on a bus and a boat.

We began in Kuala Lampur. The bus company we booked, Han Tours, was located right next to a Travel Lodge, so we booked a night there and were waiting outside for our bus at 8:00am.

Unfortunately, our bus wasn’t a bus. It was a mini van, which is much less comfortable and much more crowded. When you travel through Asia, you learn that ‘bus’ can mean a lot of different things. I’ve been in nice buses, small buses, mini van buses, buses with standing room, buses with live chickens in them, buses driven by maniacs. This wasn’t the worst bus we’ve seen.

It also wasn’t the best

It ended up being another passenger who made this trip unbearable, and not the lack of leg room. He caughed and sneezed without covering his mouth the whole 3 hour trip. Coronovirus has me acutely aware of coughers and sneezers at the moment and, unfortunately, we couldn’t find masks in KL, so I felt extremely exposes in that enclosed space. I used a lot of hand sanitizer, and gave a lot of dirty looks on our journey to the jungle.

Me: the whole way there (in my mind)

3 hours later, I was thrilled to get off that bus and away from “Sir Sneezes A Lot”. Kuala Tembeling was nice. We had lots of time to kill while we waited for the boat to pick us up. It’s faster to take a bus from KT to the little jungle town where we were staying, but who can resist a boat ride through the jungle!!

The type of boat we took to Kuala Tehan

If you’re planning to take this route to the jungle, be warned: the the boats are pretty small and there isn’t much room for luggage. It’s pretty handy that you can pay your National park fee in that little town though, and you can also have some lunch while you’re there. Sadly, the cater to “Western tastes”, meaning the food is lacking in flavour and mostly just deep fried and salty.

I also made friends while we waited for our boat

Once the boat arrived, it wasn’t long before we were on our way. It was quite a long ride; 3 hours. We were pretty uncomfortable by the end of it, shifting our weight around to get feeling back in our numb bums, but I’d recommend the trip anyway. It was gorgeous.

It was nice to get some fresh air after being in the bus. The bald guy near the front is the germ-spreader. I made sure to stay as far away from him as possible 😂

One other thing worth mentioning to anyone who’s considering taking this trip: bring sun screen! The boat is covered overhead, but as the sun starts moving down in the sky, you’ll get a sun burn if you’re on the left side of the boat. My arms are now 2 different shades of tan as a result.

Binoculars might be a good idea too. You might be able to spot some wild life. We did see some very beautiful birds.

It was a beautiful trip to a beautiful town. We’ve loved our stay here so far and I have plenty to write about it! Check back soon!

The riverfront in Kuala Tahan. There are several floating restaurants down there. They all have Western and Malaysian choices
The little street near our hotel. The town is very remote and quite rural. I’m a little surprised we have working data, but wifi is scarce here
The view from our hotel room

CNY 2020 – Day 7 – Coronovirus

I don’t think it’s possible for me to write about this holiday and not discuss what’s going on back “home” in China. The Coronovirus outbreak has been a very large part of our lives throughout this entire trip. When we aren’t reading up on news ourselves, we’re in contact with people back in Suzhou who didn’t go on holiday. It’s been kind of wild.

China is in the midst of building a hospital… In 6 days. There are actually 2 of these being built because most likely, a lot more people are going to be getting sick

The virus started in Wuhan, in a wet market. People there were selling exotic meats like bat and civet, and that’s how the virus began. We had been hearing about the pneumonia-causing illness in December already, but it wasn’t actually until we got to Malaysia that things got bad. First the market in Wuhan was closed, then the city shut down. Then, several others shut down too.

Ground 0 for the Wuhan Coronovirus

We live in Suzhou, which is about 300km from the city of Wuhan. There have been only 8 cases in Suzhou and no deaths, as of now. One of the infected Suzhou residents was even cured! Still, people are very nervous about it all.

I’ve never been to Hubei province, although it’s pretty close via high speed train

Watching this go down from so far away is kind of surreal. I keep seeing photos of empty grocery store shelves and I keep getting notices of all the venues and events that are shutting down because of the virus. Everyone has basically been told to stay home. People are going stir crazy.

It’s worse in Wuhan, where the city is in complete lock down. Roads have been physically closed to stop people from getting out. Unfortunately, 5 million people left Wuhan before officials realized that this virus is so contagious. This is why it’s spread so far throughout China.

We don’t really know when we’re going to be able to go back. Our three cats are being cared for by our usual pet sitter, and we’re ok to stay here in Malaysia for a while, but it’s still a strange feeling to know that we can’t go back home because it’s not really safe to yet.

Many flights have been cancelled already

The government has been really careful over the last week. Schools are being shut down for an extra week after the holiday and non-essential businesses are closed until February 8th. There’s even been a hotline set up where people can report businesses that are trying to get their workers back to work early. It hasn’t stopped several schools from trying to get teachers to come back early to sit in empty classrooms, in the name of “getting their dollar’s worth” out of us. They don’t want us feeling like we have extra holidays…

I’m fairly concerned about the emptying grocery stores. Fresh vegetables and fruit are in short supply.

All of this is leading to some panic, of course. There are a lot of rumours going around and quite a bit of misinformation. People are abandoning their pets and freaking out on other expats in the Wechat groups too. I’ve seen name calling and full on melt downs. People are scared and they want other people to be scared too so that they don’t feel so alone.

Of course, some people are creating memes in their spare time, which I think is a lot more productive than going over worst case scenarios in your head.

I’ve been trying very hard to stay calm. I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a teenager and one of the best ways I know how to cope is to surround myself with positive people. I choose my friends carefully. But… I also feel like I have a role to play as an expat community leader in Suzhou. I am either the owner or administrator of multiple Wechat groups, and thousands of people use these groups to get information. I need to make sure that I’m there, providing good information and stopping bad information from spreading.

I’ve been trying to encourage people to stay calm, stay isolated and stay clean.

Still, I’m lucky. I’m facing this from the safety of a country that has been mostly unaffected by the virus. I have a reliable person taking care of my pets and the ability to stay abroad for a little while longer, although, to be honest I’d much rather be home, safe and sound with my furry family.

I just want to be home, curled up with Oliver

For now, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing: staying up to date with facts, washing my hands frequently, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and staying out of crowds. It’s all I can do.

Good advice!

Here are a couple more coronavirus memes to brighten a rather gloomy post:

There are lots of these ones floating around including one of a guy who cut a hole in his mask so that he could smoke out of it
During Chinese New year, these red envelopess are given out with money in them. Of course this year, with masks being in short supply…. This is a great gift!
Probably my favorite meme so far. Chinese people love to tell others to drink hot water…. For everything. Cold water is bad for you…. Hot water will cure fevers, ear infections, pneumonia and probably Coronovirus too

My next post will be about traveling to the jungle! Stay tuned! (I’m almost caught up!?)

CNY 2020 – Day 6 – Sentosa Island

The 6th day of our holiday was spent on Sentosa Island; a major tourism attraction in Singapore. We booked our tickets for the cable car ride ahead of time, and decided we’d figure out what we wanted to do when we got there.

The view was beautiful from the cable car!
Singapore

Upon arrival, we quickly realized that without tripling our budget for the day, there was no way we’d be able to do it all, so we settled on 2 of the lower prices options (proving you can do Sentosa on a limited budget).

There is a Universal Studios on Sentosa islands and also a Madame Tussauds.

One thing we learned after walking around for a while was that transportation on the island is mostly free. There is a ‘hop on and off” type bus which costs 25 Singaporean dollars per person (the conversion is almost the same as Canadian dollars), but there is also a monorail and shuttles that can help you get around the island as well.

One of the buses we used to get around the Island

Our first stop was the Trick Eye Museum. It was pretty hot out so we figured we should spend the peak of the day indoors, where it was air conditioned.

Now, I’m sure part of my problem with this museum was my understanding of what it was. When I hear ‘trick eye’, I mostly think of optical illusions. I was expecting silly mirrors, maybe some amateur magic or just good old fashion tricks of the eye. But the museum only had 1 or 2 of those types of displays. The rest were all basically the type of thing you can do with phone apps like Beaty Cam and Instagram. Taking photos of myself with bunny ears or in a ballerina outfit isn’t really something I’ll do for free… Let alone paying $25 each to do it.

There were a few cute ones
There was nothing ‘trick’ about this one. I just squeezed between a statue’s arms…
This one was actually pretty good. It was an actual trick Eye display

There were definitely a few good laughs, mostly in the ones that required videos.

Dave told me roughly where they were and I played along
Keep in mind that none of these special effects worked without looking through an app. So we were just goofing around in front of large posters

It didn’t really help that my phone couldn’t even run the app. I have a Oneplus6, so I’m not sure what the problem was. Even Dave’s phone glitched quite a bit. All in all, I wouldn’t visit a museum like this again. It’s too bad too, because there were other things I wanted to do, but after dropping $50 for us to spend 45 minutes there taking selfies… We didn’t have the budget to do other stuff we would have enjoyed more.

There was some weird stuff in that place!

Our second stop was Fort Siloso. We got there only 40 minutes before close so we didn’t get to see much, but it was a nice walk anyway.

It was a British fort during the second world war
Some displays were set up to help create ambience

On our way out of fort Siloso, we stumbled upon an Asian food market, so we decided to walk around.

Delicious, delicious food!

The market wasn’t quite open yet but all the businesses were getting set up. Part of setting up included taking photos of all the food offerings from each shop. That was sort of neat.

Representatives from each food stall came for the photo shoot
They also all said as prayer before getting started

The trip back via cable car was equally beautiful during the sun set.

Pretty Sun set!

All in all, I enjoyed our trip to Sentosa. If we had doubled our budget ($200 instead of $100) we could have done a lot more, but when you go on holiday as much as we do, you’ve gotta give up some things. Singapore is overall quite an expensive country, so I wasn’t super surprised at the costs, but was disappointed in the value in some cases.

I did get to see baby peacocks, so that was pretty awesome!

Check back soon! More posts to come!

CNY 2020 – Day 5 – Gardens by the Bay

We didn’t have much time in Singapore, but we knew there were a couple of things we simply had to do and see. One of those things was Gardens by the Bay.

A photo taken from the bridge going into GBTB.
Strange floating eggs. This whole area feels otherworldly.
We knew we were going to enjoy this place even before we got there. So much green!!

You’ve probably seen Singapore’s super trees in photos before but nothing compares to seeing them in person. These solar powered beauties range from 25-50 meters tall. They are beautiful, provide shade in the heat and act as a huge tourism pull for the city. Best of all, it’s free to visit Supertree Grove, even during the nightly light show!

Un-edited. Such beautiful colors!!
The trees are quite large!

Still, it’s definitely worth spending a bit of money to see the rest of the park. The Flower Dome is a beautiful area full of plants, flowers and trees from all around the world. Best of all, it’s climate controlled, giving you a break from the hot Singaporean sun.

Blooming flowers everywhere
So much colour!!
A beautiful shot Dave got of a bird in the flower dome
This flower was artificial but so beautiful!

There are various themes set up throughout the dome, with Alice in Wonderland being my favourite. Everything was so well done and so well maintained!

The first one we spotted was the Cheshire cat. I dressed as this iconic cat for Halloween this year!
The Queen of hearts
Pooh and Piglet: another theme found within the Flower Dome

Another amazing sight was the wood carvings seen throughout the dome. They were beautiful works of art.

This one was huge!
So much detail
Probably my favorite carving

The Cloud Forest is also well worth a visit. With an artificial waterfall and so many flowers and plants to appreciate, this area is a lovely way to spend some time. The air smells so fresh and it’s relaxing being surrounded by so much vegetation. We really enjoyed our time there.

It smelled like heaven in the cloud forest!
Everything was beautiful and green!!

The Cloud Forest had some really interesting displays as well. It didn’t seem as big or as impressive as Flower Dome at first glance, but then we realized that in The Cloud forest, you go up!

They had Venus fly traps in this area
They also incorporated Lego into some of the gardens. See if you can spot the plastic flowers!

The skyway is yet another beautiful way to experience the garden. I am still dealing with quite a bit of pain in my foot, so I decided to skip that attraction and Dave went solo while I stretched out my tired muscles. He got some beautiful shots.

The view from above
The Marina Sands Hotel the background: one of Singapore’s most iconic buildings
The bridge that takes you from one Supertree to the next

The most amazing feature at Gardens by the Bay is their nightly light show. They do this every night at 7:45 and 8:45. We caught the late show and it was incredible!

The eggs at the entrance of the park light up at night
The view from the lookout point is spectacular
There was an eerie song playing with the eggs. It felt like we were in another world

Even without the show itself, GBTB is an amazing sight at night. When the music starts though, it’s breathtaking. The park was full of people admiring this spectacular presentation of lights and music. It exceeded my expectations.

This was before the light show even began!
The trees slowly changed color
So beautiful!!

If you’re going to Singapore, you simply can’t skip Gardens by the Bay. It’s a delightful place. It’s so well maintained and clean and there’s so much to enjoy!

They exploded with color!
The trees were coordinated with each other as well as with music. The night we saw the show, the music was a Waltz
So pretty!

Finally, here’s a lovely video for you to enjoy!

For best effect, watch the video with the sound on! It’s really quite amazing!

Be sure to check back soon! I have a few other posts on the go and now that I’m in the relaxing rainforest… I’ll have more time for writing!