A Travellerspoint blog

A few days in the Chinese countryside...

sunny 30 °C

Sept 4th

( Jenn )

When last we saw our merry band of intrepid travellers, they were at the Shenzhen airport waiting for their 11 pm flight to Guilin...

The flight left on time, albeit from a completely different gate than the one on their boarding passes, flew through a lightning storm, and landed early at the Guilin Airport where a very nice gentleman was waiting (sign in hand) to take them to their hotel.

The trio had decided to book a place in advance after stumbling (online) on the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, a good distance outside the actual town of Yangshuo (they were seeking something a little more country-like after their time in Hong Kong). And thanks to their friend Denise calling for them, they managed to hold on to their reservation through the whole lost-baggage-and-missed-plane-crisis /and/ reschedule their ride.

The 90 minute ride to the retreat was - as usual - completely harrowing, but Anica was so tired she still fell asleep and Jenn and Rob actually enjoyed the craziness, the cool wind whipping into the car and the shadows of looming karsts keeping them wide awake.

Arriving at the retreat, we could hear the river rushing along at the front of the building but couldn't see a thing. As late as we arrived, the young woman at reception showed us to the third floor and our huge triple room overlooking the river (we still couldn't see it but we could hear it and it sounded lovely) and told us we could actually check in formally in the morning. We gratefully unpacked, threw on our pajamas and passed out.

We slept in a little (9 am), leaping out of our beds to fling back the curtains and see not only the river, the rain and the gorgeous green grounds but karsts, dozens of them, shooting up from the landscape surrounding the retreat. We gazed in awe. The air felt cool, smelled fresh and the idea of spending a rainy day inside was not necessarily a disappointing one.

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The view from our room

Freshly showered and clothed, we made our way downstairs for breakfast and to properly check in, at which point we were asked "What are you going to do now?" Now? Not a whole hell of a lot, we were all thinking, still completely exhausted from the day before. Will it rain all day, we tentatively enquired, feeling like maybe we should do something after all. We were informed it would likely brighten up in the afternoon and were pointed towards a three ring binder with dozens of pages detailing all the many things we could do in the region.

We /were/ interested in a short boat tour down the Li River (as opposed to the six hour one from Guilin to Yangshuo) but were told that the Guilin operators now have a monopoly and all the other tours are illegal and can be stopped at any time. So much for that. After yesterday, we weren't prepared to test our luck.

What about a cave, we asked. Was there one which would be suitable for a child? They frowned. Was a cave really suitable at all for a girl came the response. Rob and I looked at each other. Anica, when told of the exchange later (since she was running in and out of the building at the time), laughed her butt off. We settled on the nearby Dragon Cave, determining it to be untaxing and a nice walk back to the retreat after the recommended taxi there.

We went back up to our room, napped for a bit, spent some time reading and relaxing, then had lunch. After lunch, we changed, doused ourselves in bug repellent, watched a bunch of bamboo rafts floating down the river in front of the retreat, the passengers waving at us like crazy and trying to spray us (in fun) with water using these sort of water plunger darts.

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At three pm, our taxi driver showed up. There was a woman with him and we had no idea who she was. He drove but she took the money and when we arrived at the caves, went to the ticket booth with us. For a bit, we wondered whether she was our guide, but no, she finally disappeared without a word.

We headed up the stairs and into the entrance for the caves where a gentleman waved at the flashlights and bullhorns in front of him. Intrepid Canadians that we are, we were well prepared to pick them up and head in ourselves but apparently all the waving just meant sit your butts down, your guide will be with you in a minute.

Our guide finally turned up, a young woman who spoke a litte English - enough to tell us what the various formations were supposed to resemble and to answer our questions.

The caves themselves were very interesting, our favourite part the two boat rides through underground caverns at the end.

We walked home from the caves, our guide asking if she could accompany us to the Big Banyan Tree, for which we had asked directions. It was only after we said yes that we wondered if she was expecting to continue as our guide and whether we would need to tip her.

The Big Banyan Tree is exactly what it sounds like. 1500 years old, it is 55 feet wide and 28 feet tall. A very impressive sight.

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roots of the Big Banyan Tree

Leaving there, we told our guide, who seemed to want to lead us in more activities, that we were going to head back to our hotel. We asked if we could give her a small gift for helping us and gave her a small tip. We're still not sure if she was expecting it or not.

Our walk back to the hotel was great. Muddy but cool, the karst-filled landscape still blew us away again and again as we walked along the pot-hole filled gravel road back to the retreat.

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Sept 5th

( Anica )

Today we woke up and went to Yangshao town and people tried to sell us stuff like postcards, books, DVDs, t shirts, coloured balls, food, bambo rafts, flutes, and lots more.

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Look how far we've come!
- sign in front of restaurant on West Street in Yangshuo

we had dinner at drifters. we used playground excirsie things.

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Making use of the public exercise equipment in Yangshuo

It was SO FUN. We also got a mouse in our house, yes it escaped out of the trap.

( Rob )

Anica's described the hawkers on Yangshuo's West Street, probably named for all the Westerners who have long made it backpackers' central in China. It's still a nice town, though, with marble pavement and bridges.

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View of Yangshuo from West Street

At Drifters, I enjoyed the famous Yangshuo "beer fish" that's on everyone's menu, a whole fish cooked in beer with vegetables.

Sept 6th

( Jenn )

Anica's turn... to be sick :(

She's picked up a little bug and is feeling really crummy today. We took a local bus 40 minutes to a small town called Xingping and looked around the market (only there in days ending in 2, 4 and 6) but she started acting funny and very soon basically begged to go back to the retreat. We climbed back on the bus (although we were basically the only Westerners there, there were some locals who pointed out which bus) and one of the locals (who helps arrange small tours onwards to this fishing village we'd hoped to visit) actually called the Retreat, although we didn't know it at the time, told them Anica was sick and we were coming back. So... when we got to the bus station, our usual taxi couple were waiting to take us back to the Retreat. Yay!

We checked Anica's temp (38.5 C), gave her some Motrin and she slept for a while. Then since she seemed to feel a little better she had some plain rice for lunch and some white grape juice while Rob and I had Yangshuo noodles and hot & sour soup (full of red peppers at the bottom).

Apparently her lunch was not such a good idea as it all came back up about 20 minutes later *pets her*

Now she's in her pajamas and trying to sleep again. Her fever's down and we're pretty sure this was nothing more than a yucky little flu bug. Hopefully she'll be mostly right as rain tomorrow and luckily our travel plans (we move on to Chengdu) involve one taxi ride, a plane ride and another taxi drive with a pick-up at the airport - and we don't move until the afternoon.

(Rob)

Jenn's asked me to write more about Xingping and the market because this was more off-the-beaten-path, even if only for a couple of hours. Though we went with Eric and Norma, an American couple staying at our retreat, we only saw two other Westerners in all of our trip to Xingping. The market sold everything. Really. First, though, we saw an interesting peanut wholesaler. I dug out my Mandarin phrase book and found the word for peanut, saying it like a question to the men standing around. That got me lots of smiles and nods, and a fresh, tasty peanut to eat!

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Peanut for you!

We also saw more gruesome things, like monkey skulls (as mascots? talismans?) with a man selling roots, and dead snakes and turtles to illustrate some sort of miracle cure. The butcher's section had pigs' heads and hooves, and then there was all the live chickens, ducks, chicks, etc. in baskets. In the same aisle, men were getting their hair cut. Another aisle was for seafood, including live frogs and eels. Anica was only bothered by her own illness, not these sights. She said she would have enjoyed the market more if she was feeling okay. The local people were very friendly, especially in pointing out our daughter to their children. Very few demured at having their picture taken, but we still felt very self-conscious after doing so.

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Tobacco: sold loose or by leaf

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Is it still called poultry when it's alive?

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Dried roots being sold at the market in Xingping

Posted by jennrob 03:45 Archived in China Comments (3)

Catching Up with Anica

Some Excerpts from her Journal

semi-overcast 24 °C

August 17 - Nipah Bay, Pangkor Island, Malaysia

Today we woke up in the morning and saw a kitty cat sitting on our chair outside then it walked away. So we got up and had breakfast, for Mommy and Daddy scrarbeled eggs with tost butter and jam. For me fruit pancakes with chocolate sace and fruit jucie. Saw birds with two beaks looked like tocauns. Walked to the beach saw a few kitty cats on the way. When we got to the beach we played in the water and saw another one of those birds. BIG waves. had lunch. rested, went back to the becah. Bigger waves, played in the water, read my books, played some more, builed lots of sandcastles today, started walking back. Saw a family of monkeys with the cutest faces. Went back, saw the water at the beach that is small, had dinner, good night.

August 22/23- Georgetown, Penang Island, Malaysia

We got on a bus ride to Penang, when we ariveed we got on a ferry and taxi to Minngood Hotel. nice. looked around, unpacked, got some dinner snacks. good night. next Day we looked around Penang. went to Fort Cornwallis. perfect. had lunch, went to penang Hill, got on a train that took us up the moutian. had dinner, good night.

August 27 - Ko Samui, Thailand to Hong Kong

We had to wake up really early. Disappointed. had to get ready for the taxi come. I saw a water buffalo. So we had a flight on Bangok air to Hong Kong. great, they gave Mommy and Daddy Chinise food, for me wenires and chicken nuggets, cold orange juice, water, cantolope and orange pudding. We got to Hong Kong had dinner, good night.

Aug 29 - Hong Kong

Today we woke up and went and had starbuck coffe and then took MTR to the travel agency and i played nintendo for two hours then took MTR to hong kong and went on peak tram. had Bubba gump shirmp for lunch. went and met Mike, Siu Ling, Abigail and Isabel, played and ate at their house. Said Bye and rode star ferry back. Good night.

September 1 - Hong Kong

today we went on a two hour hike. it wa hard but went with michael and sueling and the girls. saw brooks, butterflys, one big bee, 2 worms, Dragonflys, Ant, Hawks, birds, then when we finshed are hike we had too go pee an a really dirty squat toilet. had dinner, finshed with ice crem that comes in lemon or cocout or orenge.

September 5 - Yangshao, China

Today we went to the Dragon cave and saw stalagmites and stalagtites and the lights that they put in. We also went on 2 boat rides and saw non-carved dragons. The boat rides were a suprise. We also saw a mirage - the water looked deeper then it was. We have mountin (behind) and river (infront) of our hotel. We've seen people on rafts trying to spray us. Our room is all wood and real tree bark.

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Good night!

( picture posted with permission of subject :P )

Posted by jennrob 07:08 Archived in China Comments (5)

We're idiots!

( or at least the two big ones are )

sunny 27 °C

September 3rd

( Jenn )

Omg. (That's oh my god for those are you not familiar with netspeak)

We had a lovely 6:40 bus (2 hours) from Hong Kong to Shenzhen Airport set up for this morning, followed by a 1 hour flight to Guilin and a 90 min taxi drive to Yangshuo. We talked to the front desk and they advised taking a taxi in the morning because the MTR only opens at 6 am and we had to be way up town for where the bus picked up. We thought we had things made.

Hah!

We left a few minutes early (my usual paranoia kicking in) and lo and behold, the first taxi driver didn't know where we were going at all, despite our tickets with the English /and/ Chinese writing on them. We waited a few more minutes, got a second driver who spoke no English but the first driver assured us he knew where to go. And he did! Yay! We arrive with major time to spare. Finally a driver showed up, looked at our tickets, said "you wait here" and boarded the bus. We assumed (oh how wrongly) that he was our driver. Minutes pass as we watch him eating his breakfast, fixing his tie, making his seat nice and cushy with his special padded cover. Finally, with five minutes to spare, Rob asks him when we're going - and he announces that he's not our driver, we need to go to the ticket office on the corner.

We run to the office, get stickers stuck on us and our bags, get shunted onto another bus around the corner and it whips off. We congratulate ourselves on a crisis narrowly averted.

Hah! (Part 2)

At the Hong Kong border we get off the bus and run through customs. We're the only Westerners on the bus so we're racing, our bus driver looking rather peeved that he has to wait for us at all.

We get back on the bus, drive another few minutes and it's off the bus again. Now we're really racing because no one's given us the proper immigration forms and we know we need to fill them out and get back on the bus.

WRONG.

It's not the same bus on the other side and we're supposed to take all our bags with us but since we're the only Westerners no one else has bags and no one else mentions that to us.

Off we run, fill out our forms, race through customs, get directed to our NEW bus when we all of a sudden go "what the hey? what about our bags?"

  • facepalms* (again, for those of you not familiar with netspeak, imagine that kid from Home Alone - yeah, that's it)

So... now we're on the Chinese side, our bags are back on the Hong Kong side (not our daypacks, not our important papers, but our clothes, toiletries, etc) and almost no one speaks English.

We seem to have a really difficult time communicating that our bags are still on the old bus and that we did not bring them through customs like we should have. Conversely, it takes forever for them to be able to make us understand that the new bus company is not connected with the old bus company and they have no clue where our bags are. We call Siu Ling, my cousin Mike's wife, in the hopes that she can help us and she's able to find out that they were taken back to Hong Kong and the bus company is bringing them back to Shenzhen on the next bus. We talk to Customs, who ask if we can prove the bags belong to us - we provide helpful descriptions, the combinations to our luggage locks and point out the name tags with our names on them. Customs tells us the bags will be there in 30 minutes. Of course, lost in translation is the fact that they'll be on the Hong Kong side with the police there.

Yup.

Finally, someone catches wind of our dilemma, another passenger. She's about to get on another bus, but she lets both us and the bus company know that somehow, someone is going to have to bring the bags across the border through customs. They will not magically arrive. Not in 30 minutes. Not in 30 years. Suddenly, our single-entry visa isn't looking like enough. Could we get another visa on the spot? For how long? (As far as we know, they only grant ones for a couple of days at the border) Are we going to lose the cost of not just one flight, but all our Chinese travel plans? We start to write a letter of permision for somebody (a Hong Kong resident) to carry our bags across, but soon that idea is kiboshed. The helpful lady leaves, but now things are in motion. We go with the bus guy back to the customs desk itself and they seem to know what our problem is. The duly empowered immigration officers for the People's Repbulic of China make us a miraculous offer: one of us can go back to the Hong Kong side and retrieve the bags. We think, briefly, Anica! But no... They actually cancelled Rob's entry stamp, sent him on a bus back to the Hong Kong side (without explaining any of this to him, leaving him fearing he was being sent all the way back to Hong Kong with no way to tell us). On the Hong Kong side, he had to say his name, show his passport, they showed him the bags and put him back on the bus to Shenzhen.

Meanwhile, Anica and I were amusing the customs officers. She brought out her photo album and they crowded around to see. "How big? How much?" they asked about our condo. "Why are you coming to China? What do you know about it? Are those your sisters and brothers?" pointing to the pictures of William and Lauren.

Finally, Rob returned. And contrary to what we'd been told earlier, he did not have to get a new visa. They simply gave him a new entry stamp. We thanked them profusely, went through customs /with/ our bags this time and got another bus (at no charge) to the Shenzhen Airport. And once there, we were able to book a new flight for 11 tonight with only a surcharge of 40 yuan (roughly 5 CDN) even though we'd missed our scheduled flight completely (and were carrying non-refundable non-changeable tickets).

Anyway, so now we're at the airport. We have many many hours until our flight but after this morning, we aren't budging an inch. We've found ourselves a nice cosy corner at Starbucks with internet, Rob and Anica are reading, and we're all looking forward to getting into Yangshuo at 2 in the morning :P

Posted by jennrob 23:48 Archived in China Comments (9)

The View(s) From Here

Hong Kong from every angle and elevation

sunny 30 °C

Aug 27 - 29

Hong Kong

(Rob)

On the morning of August 27th, we had to forgo the sumptious breakfast buffet at Smile House for an early trip to the Ko Samui airport. This airport, however, is quite a pleasant, open-air experience. In fact, I don't think there's anything "indoors" at all.

After what seemed like an impossibly short flight, we were in Hong Kong. A world apart, but also instantly impressive. Immediately you notice how tall the apartment buildings are. We used to live on the 25th floor of a 33-story building in Toronto, but that would look short here.

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View from our hotel out the center window

The "airport express" system got us quickly to our hotel in Kowloon. It's a YMCA, but it's more like a 4-star hotel, and it's in the ritzy neighbourhood of the Peninsula Hotel. We are so glad we reserved this place! Especially with the harbour view of Hong Kong Island. Just before 8 PM, we raced back to our room, threw open the curtains, and turned on the radio for the "symphony of lights." Anica's been looking forward to this, and it didn't disappoint. The skyline is lit up with lasers, searchlights and patterns of coloured lights for a 13-minute spectacle set to music. And we had the best imaginable view of it right in our room.

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Zoom shot taken looking out right side of our hotel room window

The first full day in Hong Kong started the way the previous evening had ended: running the gauntlet of touts up Nathan Road. This is the main street of Kowloon, and features the notorious "Chungking Mansion" hostels, where we definitely were only looking from the outside. A few blocks north, however, and we were in tranquil Kowloon Park, with its sculpture walk, aviary, playgrounds, fish ponds, and an unfortunately-closed-on-Tuesdays-for-maintenance indoor/outdoor swimming pool.

We then purchased, and made immediate use of an "Octopus Card" (not as exciting as it sounds, but a very convenient and good deal for one tap transit and other purchases). We emerged from the MTR in the area known as "goldfish market," which sure enough was a big hit with Anica. It's a strip of about a hundred aquarium stores. Although fish were not souvenirs we could take with us, it was a colourful delight to just browse. With a couple exceptions: Anica witnessed a fish (presumably sick) being pulled from its tank and left to die in a garbage pail, and Jenn pointed out one store selling huge amounts of coral.

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Jenn and Anica check out some of the smaller fish for sale in Goldfiish Market

A small restaurant ("Happy Family Farm" noodle house) made for a nice stop, then it was back on and off the MTR again for a visit to the Jade Market. It's a covered structure, where selection and quality is huge. We bargained for a couple of pieces, although Anica repeating "this one is what I want" didn't help our cause.

Dinner was at a popular HK sit-down restaurant chain called "The Spaghetti House," which is just what it sounds like and very tasty. Most of the diners were locals, not tourists. Then, for the second night in a row, we saw the light show. Anica and I enjoyed a brief swim in the hotel pool before calling it a day.

August 29th turned out to be a great day in HK. First, we spent a couple of hours in the China Travel Service office and got great help with our local/domestic flights coming up for China. Then, we took the Peak Tram to (duh) "The Peak." It's a great, green, steep ride that we enjoyed more than the Georgetown funicular.

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On the Peak Tower viewing platform

After lunch (bizarre, but nice at "Bubba Gump's," the Forrest Gump themed seafood restaurant at the Peak Tower), we met Jenn's cousin Mike. The car ride back down turned out to be as much fun as the tram, as he toured all over up and down the hillsides until it was time for Abby and Isabel to come home from school.

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Anica loosening up and getting to know her second cousins

They live on the far side of Hong Kong Island, and it's so different from the city. They have a view of a green, forested peak, and a bay below. Mike teaches at an International school, and he gave us the tour of the campus. It's 10 stories tall, befitting the slope of the hill it's built on. The family's apartment is on the grounds, like many of the faculty. Anica enjoyed playing with her cousins (once removed? I never knew how that works), and Mike and Siu Ling had us for dinner. It's really great to be in someone's home for a meal, the first time since Vancouver we've had that pleasure. As for getting home (it was a school night for them...ha!), Mike drove us to the HK Island side of the Star Ferry run, and we took the floating landmark across to Kowloon, a spectacular end to a wonderful day.

August 30th

( Jenn )

A month on the road and we seem to be doing pretty well. Rob and I have been squabbling a lot but it's just that and honestly, I'm probably the one doing the squabbling when it comes down to it. I'm finding the heat and the humidity and the squat toilets (although we've had a lot less of those in Hong Kong than anywhere else) and the whole thing of having your clothes feel like they're soaking wet for a good part of the day much harder to deal with than I thought I would and I'm not the most patient person in the universe at the best of times so... :P

Luckily I have a wonderful husband and a lovely daughter who understands that Mummy and Daddy love each other even when they are squabbling and we all joke about how we have our good and bad moments throughout each day :)

August 30th

(Rob)

Hi, it's the wonderful husband here again. Today we took a very expensive and time-consuming, but not unrewarding, trip to Macau. We should have known better, because the Venetian Macau, now the world's largest casino, just opened two days ago.

We were going for the history - really - but we wanted to get a peek at the Venetian until we heard that even a taxi could only get you within 20 minutes' walk of the place. Even though jet foils leave HK harbour every 15 minutes, we still had to buy a "superclass" ticket in order not to wait around for two hours. This turned out to be like an airplane's first class, complete with leather-chaired waiting lounge and an onboard meal that economy class did not get. So we ate five meals today. That kind of made up for the big lines at customs both ways. The turbojet boat itself was so smooth it didn't feel like we were going fast, but we were.

Arriving in Macau we took the opposite tactic, and caught a public bus instead of waiting and paying for a taxi. We chose the right route to get to Senado Square, the heart of historical Macau. This was indeed a beautiful, pedestrian only square, with streets radiating out from it. Bustling, yes, but again, only foot traffic. The bright sun made the colours on the colonial buildings dazzling.

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Senado Square, Macau

Free of charge, we explored the Lou Kau Mansion, a prominent merchant's home from the late 19th century, and saw how the Portuguese and Chinese influences had fused. We also all enjoyed the civic library's rare books room. No photos allowed there, but it's a classic old wood-panelled library with books under glass open to pages of Chinese to English or Portuguese translation right back to some 16th century volumes. The ruins of St. Paul's cathedral were also striking. Just the facade is left after an 1835 fire. This still stands dramatically at the top of the steps and street below, blue sky streaming through its stone window frames. We bought some cookies at a bakery that seemed incredibly popular, after enjoying their free samples. Many stores sold a kind of gelatinous pork jerky (Cantonese sweetmeats) that is cut with scissors into the square size you wish. Not too bad tasting, but for that we didn't go beyond the free sample.

Dinner came only after a fruitless hour long walk that brought us back to Senado Square. At least the food was good, in the Asian-influenced Portuguese style that you would expect of Macau. After the long day, we were happy to enjoy a quiet day on Friday, devoted to doing laundry, and highlighted by seeing (in English) The Simpsons Movie. The AMC theatre was great; all the movies in HK are reserved-seating, and they had salty popcorn here, whereas most we've seen has been sweet.

Saturday was another great day with the Bakers, albeit tiring. We went on a 2 1/2 hour hike, seeing a side of Hong Kong Island that many never do. The peak we climbed is called the Dragon's Back, and it wasn't too hard, except none of us had enough water. The grownups couldn't believe how Anica and her 2 younger cousins handled the hike with a minimum of whining.

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A flat stretch on the way up the dragon's back

It was such a sunny day that we had the best possible views, including one of the valley where their home and Mike's school is, of Stanley, and ultimately of the village called Shek-O. We walked back down to Shek-O road, and caught the bus into town - a beach village, really, and ate at this great, casual Thai place where our sweatiness wasn't a factor. The girls loved the ice cream, with the lemon sorbert served in a hollowed-out lemon, and the coconut in a...well, you get the idea. It really was great to do something local and unique. The hike was well worth the effort.

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View from top of hike, including a glimpse of private Shek-O golf course

Today - Sunday, September 2nd (isn't there something I'm supposed to be doing?)- we capped it off with Dim Sum lunch, again with Jenn's cousin's family. Siu Ling's local knowledge helped us enjoy a treat - a restaurant on the 56th floor. The kids loved the trip up in a glass elevator. She ordered all the dishes from the no-English menu and they were great. Afterwards we strolled through impeccably-manicured Hong Kong park, dodging raindrops long enough to enjoy the large aviary.

We said our goodbyes and, other than one last viewing of the "Symphony of Lights," our Hong Kong experience was ended. Connecting again with Mike and Siu Ling, and having Anica get to know Abby and Izzy, has really made this week special.

Posted by jennrob 06:50 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (2)

Sleep, eat, swim and repeat

Four days on Koh Samui, Thailand

semi-overcast 26 °C

August 23rd

( Jenn )

Mid-afternoon, we took a taxi from Mingood Hotel to Bayan Lepas (Penang's International Airport). It should have cost us 20 MYR but the driver charged us 35, telling us the hotel charged /him/ a 15 MYR kickback for calling him and that he was just passing that along. We knew this to be true from things we'd read and forgotten so we paid up without question but next time we'll walk a block down and wave one over instead.

The airport was great. Expensive like any other airport but still cheap in our books, we managed to grab muffins and a couple cans of pop to tide us over until dinner, along with a package of Mentos to stop everyone's ears from popping on the plane.

Past security, there were lots of stores and comfortable seats and we spent the remaining hour before our flight watching our small 50 seat Fokker being refueled and playing games on the cellphone. Oh, and Anica played her version of Sumo wrestler - putting her backpack on frontways and slamming into us over and over :)

When it came time to be called for the plane, a man led us down some stairs, out onto the tarmac and waved in the direction of our plane. It was small enough that there were only four steps leading up into it, and as we were sitting right under the wing, we got to watch the wheels being raised and lowered. Anica /loved/ it.

The flight took roughly an hour and fifteen minutes and Anica was terribly disappointed when it was over. Too short, she declared, but the open-air tram waiting to take us to the customs and baggage area more than made up for it.

Customs was simple and quick with only one guy waiting to jump us on the other side. 500 baht, he told us - private taxi. We knew it was supposed to cost 200-300 and we kept insisting 300 but eventually agreed to 400 - anything to get to our hotel, and again, knowing how little we were quibbling over.

The drive around Koh Samui, to Bophut and our resort, was slightly harrowing as usual. Left-sided driving, tons of motorbikes, too many driven by Westerners who have no clue what they're doing, narrow streets, huge trucks and 4x4s unlike Pangkor, etc. But we got there and wow...

The place was heaven. It was a real splurge for us coming in around the 100 CDN mark a night, but when our itinerary shifted we found ourselves there in peak season /and/ on a weekend.

Oh well. For that price we got a huge buffet breakfast every morning (eating well enough to carry ourselves through to dinner) and a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom bungalow with a living room, tv, free drinking water, daily maid service, towels (both beach and bathroom - a huge luxury after barely being given one at some of the hostels).

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Our room at the resort

Anica had her own living quarters and loved it - as did we, finally getting some alone time after almost four weeks on the road.

The beds were hugely comfortable, the air conditioning actually adjustable, and we had a wonderful porch with a table, chairs and a rack for drying all our wet things. There were two swimming pools: a smaller one right outside our door and a larger one at the front of the resort

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gorgeous gardens, a beachfront restaurant, a whole village of shops and restaurants, and a long strip of beautiful sandy beach

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Given that we're looking at four weeks in China followed by two in Vietnam, this was exactly what we needed. And even though it came fairly close on the heels of being in Pangkor, it was a totally different experience and I'm glad we managed to have them both.

The first thing we did upon arrival - after running around our huge bungalow celebrating how clean and large and gorgeous it was - was go swimming in the pool right outside. Then we hunted up dinner at The Frog & Gecko. True to its name, there were dozens of geckos running around inside - up and down the walls, the ceiling, etc. Good thing they're so cute and useful! Anica indulged in a bacon cheeseburger, Rob in a mince and onion pie with mashed potatoes and I had potato skins with cheese and bacon. Yum!

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Anica at the Frog & Gecko

August 25

( Jenn )

So, after several more encounters with cockroaches - one falling from our air-conditioning unit, two in the shower, and another by the bathroom door handle - we can honestly say that your surroundings make all the difference in how you react to the things.

Take a scummy slimy dingy hostel with rats crawling around near the restaurant and one cockroach is enough to make you run (almost literally) from town a day early. But find a couple of them over a few days at a place kept so squeaky clean and you can easily chock them up to the climate and nature of the location.

Oh, gross factor of the day? Being suddenly deterred from using the beach by the underwater sewage spill (burst pipe) just down the way. Ugh. *clings to pools*

Random act of kindess of the day? Committed by the lovely Australian family from Hong Kong who dropped off all their beach toys, mats, insect repellent and electronic mosquito zappers on our front porch before leaving for the airport. Thank you!

Rob says I should continue to mention the restaurants. Last night we went to the Happy Elephant. Anica had a lovely huge cheese sandwich which came on a submarine bun with fries and coleslaw. She also had her first "mocktail" - mango, orange and pineapple juices mixed with strawberry syrup. Rob and I shared pork satay with peanut sauce, prawns with thai chili paste and beef with basil. All was delicious and made even more so by our table overlooking the water.

Tonight we checked out Starfish and Coffee. Again ushered to a table overlooking the water (something you could have every night for two weeks here and never have to repeat a restaurant), Anica ordered a cheeseburger with fries and we had more seafood! which made for a happy Rob. Prawns with basil and onion, crab with sweet chili paste, more pork satay with peanut sauce and springs rolls with chili sauce. Mm mm good. And all meals that, while not cheap by non-resort Thai standards, set us back for a third of what they would cost us at home.

Aug 26

( Jenn )

Our last night we ate at the Frog & Gecko again. We were craving comfort food and it was the only place that really had its kitchen going before 7 pm. I had the potato skins again while Anica had a back bacon sandwich and Rob had chili. Yum again.

It's been a gorgeous three days (well, three and a half) and we're going to be sorry to leave. I could've used a day or two more I think :P

Posted by jennrob 21:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (5)

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