Saturday, May 9, 2009

Athletic weekend

It was a busy athletic weekend. I went biking with with kevin for the 2nd time, a 2 hour ride. I definitely was feeling a little out of shape by the end of it! Then the next day was basketball, which ended in quite a jammed finger (that is still an issue 3 weeks later!) And ended Sunday night with playing Rock Band at a friend's house. The goal was to be as loud as possible to annoy the neighbors (who had called to complain on previous occasions when the music wasn't very loud).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trip to Borneo!

Now this was a great little vacation from everything! Michelle came over to Korea and China, and we spent about 5 days in Borneo, exploring a variety of climates, foods, and underwater worlds! We arrived the first night and went off to a local market with a friend of a friend (who was our guide for a few days). We sampled a number of unique dishes, including a great chicken served out of bamboo. The next day we woke up to pouring rain (my heart dropped, since the weather forecast for our whole trip was rain - I had prayed it was wrong). Thankfully the rain lasted about 30 minutes and we went on to enjoy humid but beautiful weather! During breakfast we had birds (small birds like sparrows) flying around and occasionally landing on tables, adding a nice touch. We hired a car for the first day ($200 to drive us around for the day, which must have been a king's ransom in that country!) We drove out to the jungle area, with a range of activities for the day. Tea farms, swimming in the river with suction cup fishes (you bought food to hold in your hand, and these little Hoovers would suck it right out!) Once i gripped my hand tightly, and a fish gave me a massive hickey on my hand! Michelle had fun dropping food pellets as close to my mouth as possible, causing as close to a feeding frenzy as possible!

The afternoon we went to the jungle, including a canopy walk. It happened to be a national holiday, and we spent a good 40 minutes waiting in line to go on the canopy walk (so much so that we ended up missing our hot springs appointment. That and the fact our guide sent us in the wrong direction towards the canopy walk). It was amusing though, we had some people on the canopy walk who were not exactly what you would call comfortable with heights. Michelle did not help matters when casually talking about how the nets did not look safe (as we were 40 meters off the ground). Then, to end the day, we saw a Rafflesia flower, which is the largest flower in the world (it can be up to a meter in diameter. What is amazing is that they take 7-15 months to grow, and then they only bloom for a week!! As a result, they are fairly rare to see, but one of the locals found one on their property. It was well worth the $10 to go and see it!

The next day we wandered around Kinabalu National park, and hopped off to our next stop, an island resort. This was intentionally luxurious, we were on a house on stilts over the water. The resort had snorkel gear, a marine preserve, a spa, and an infinity pool! We made the most of all of the above and then some! What was amazing was that it was about a 15 minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu (and even visible from it), but you felt miles away. We went swimming, collected shells, and settled down to a nice dinner of fresh fish. You know it is always a good sign when the menu changes based on what was recently caught! We sat by the sea and would continually hear splashing of fish, and at one point we saw a cloud of brown -- it turned out we watched a squid ink a would be predator!

The following day was a big water day, with scuba diving on the horizon. I was battling a cold (NOT a good idea to dive due to inner ear issues, but I decided to be reckless). Needless to say, my morning dive did not go well, and then in the afternoon Michelle almost ran out of oxygen! So it was a bit of an unnerving day, but we were able to see a bunch of marine life. Malaysia is known for some of the best dive sites in the world, and if we had more time, we would have gone to some of them! We happened to go to a beach where there were a number of Koreans. You knew that was the case when we saw a mother and her babies almost completed covered in hats and suits to protect themselves from the sun. (The even funnier part was seeing them in the same getup at the pool in our last day in Kota Kinabalu, after I had predicted to Michelle that they wouldn't stay in an eco-resort, but instead in KK at a resort like ours...) That night was a necessary calm night, and we both enjoyed a great massage. This was in contrast with dinnertime, where we saw some serious forces of brutality (crabs mating - it was hard to tell who was meaner, the men or the women!) We had another fantastic meal though, and went to sleep tired but happy.

2 am provided a scare however, with howling winds. The sun umbrella outside our door was thrown around, and our whole house seemed to shake. Knowing you are sleeping over the water does not help your sense of well-being, but they were well built! We woke up not fully refreshed, but determined to make the most of our last day at the resort. We went kayaking, snorkeling around the resort (Michelle saw a bunch of baracudas within a few meters of us). We took the kayak over to a nearby beach, and started to collect shells. Michelle found one she really liked, the only downside was that there was a hermit crab in it. She tried everything, from blowing on it to some small shaking, he refused to leave (even as she produced one that looked almost exactly the same). The whole scene was highly amusing, although I better hope she doesn't do the same to me at any point ;)

We went to the marine eco-center and planted coral, saw a snapping turtle (this bugger looked mean and like he wanted to climb out of the tank, and man he seemed close!) We picked up a peeing cucumber, saw some of the worlds largest clams, and learned about clownfish. (It is really cool that they are immune to sea anemones - the only animal that is like that - and they have a symbiotic relationship).

The last afternoon we wandered around Kota Kinabalu, seeing the local markets, stopping every 10 minutes for another of Michelle's favorite fruit. We gorged on salak fruit, coconut juice, and many others. The food overall was great in Malaysia, from a milky tea called Tea Tarik, a coffee that seemed mixed with Chai tea, and some really great beef. I could definitely live on this food! We went to Reflexology that night, according to the pressure points that hurt, almost every one of my internal organs and body parts are messed up ;) It was an amazing 1.5 hour reflexology and massage though, definitely worth it! Speaking of which, i need to make the most of the Thai massage places I found in Seoul a few weeks back. About $50 for 90 minutes! We returned to the hotel tired but happy. There was a festival going on in the hotel, and we wandered around, seeing ethnic clothing, dances, and tried a juice called "Noni juice" that tasted about as bad as it smelled. Supposedly good for you though ;)