October 25, 2008

Kuala Lumpur

-The National Mosque . We quickly found out non-Muslim tourists were not allowed.-

We thought that we'd post a few more pictures of Kuala Lumpur to help round out our version of the city. We found the Malaysian capital to be one of the more unique places that we've visited. I'm not sure if this was because of the Arab, Islamic and Muslim influence or if it was just simply the non-western architecture and distinct culture. Either way, the city was inspiring... but whatever you do, don't be trusting the taxi drivers.

-Somehow we were invited to a KTM (Kuala Lumpur's Metro) company party. We joined this little guy and his family for a delicious Halal feast.-

-An Islamic clock at the National Mosque.-

-An example of the unique architecture in Malaysia. The Dayabumi tower was built with the pattern of eight-pointed stars, also known as Arabic Star and with the use of the stunning Islamic arch at both the top and the bottom of each column.-

-KL was covered in picture-worthy graffiti.-

-The KTM headquarters, where we attended their company party.-

Petronas Twin Towers

-A misty night at the world famous Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia .-

Visiting the towers was the highlight of our short trip up to the captivating city of Kuala Lumpur. We've never been terribly interested in cities, or modern buildings for that matter, yet despite this, we felt an attraction to these Islamic giants; once the world's tallest buildings. Despite being surpassed in height by the Taipei 101 of Taiwan and the Sears Tower of the US, these towers still hold claim to the world's tallest twin towers.

-For our dear friends, Jess Christensen and Sharon, who love to jump.-

-Our first view of the towers.-

-Trev, practicing his people shots.
The sky at sunset was so beautiful.-

-Truly worth a visit. The towers were spectacular and the botanical gardens below were just as captivating.-

October 24, 2008

The Eastern and Oriental Express

-Silhouettes of Hindu gods.-

Originally, we had booked our flights to Singapore in hope that we would be able to get some passport work done at the Canadian embassy. Upon visiting the embassy and discovering that they could do nothing to help us (as usual), we decided to hop on an overnight train to Kuala Lumpur. We'd always heard of travelling by train in Asia but living land-locked in Korea we'd never really had the chance. And so, we bought tickets for The Eastern and Oriental Express.

-The 42 meter statue of the Hindu god, Murugan accompanied by 272 steps which take you up to the mouth of the caves. -

The train left the station at exactly 10pm and we were in for a long, noisy night aboard this Eastern and Oriental Express. Despite the fact that we'd booked sleepers, we slept very little. The little beds provided seems cozy enough. Yet, the night was long and the train was no where near as smooth as our boat to Komodo had been. Even the choppy seas seemed to somehow rock you to sleep amidst their shattering swells. The jerks of the connecting tracks and the shrill squeeling of the iron wheels on the time-worn track were far from soothing.

-With its 100 meter ceiling, this cavern was spectacular.-

We chugged out of the jungles and into the city at the sleepy hour of 6am. We jumped in a taxi and arrived at our hotel just in time for breakfast and then to head back out on the road again, battling the public transit system to reach the amazing Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.

-A kind hearted man lighting candles for his faith.-

We spent a few hours enjoying the caves, the monkeys and the sprawling views of the valley and Kuala Lumpur far below. Many around us had made a pilgrimage from India to worship at this shrine. Apparently, no less than 1.5 million people make the journey up these stairs every year to worship, making it one of the largest religious gatherings in history.

-Looking up, past a temple roof, to the top of the caves.-

October 22, 2008

Deepvali - The Festival of Lights

-A bustling market just outside our hostel.-

While in Singapore, we were lucky enough to be staying in Little India. Stepping out the door of our hostel and into the bustling crowds, we couldn't help but take part in Deepavali (or Diwali), a major Indian festival in celebration of light (some of you may remember this celebration from the episode of The Office where Michael mistakes Diwali for an Indian Halloween).

-The market was chalked full of brightly coloured silks, spicy foods and exotic spices and incenses. -

-Everyone seemed to be getting in some last minute shopping before the culminating festival on October 27th.-

Dating back to 400BC, Diwali means many different things to the varying religions which partake in it's festivities. Many legends are associated with Diwali and today it is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and some Buddhists across the globe as the "Festival of Light,". In Diwali, the lights or lamps signify victory of good over the evil within every human being.

-Even I got in on some of the action with a little henna.-

To learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepavali
Information from Wikipedia

The National Museum of Singapore

-Significant photos from Singapore's history.-

The National Museum of Singapore holds, by far, the most intriguing exhibits that we've ever had the pleasure of viewing. Reconstructed in 2006, the museum houses the complete history of this tiny island country. It presents its information in the most interactive methods possible. Walking around with an overgrown i-pod the visitor can choose which approach they want to take to learning: listening, watching or reading. We both greatly enjoyed our time exploring all that the museum had to offer.

-The museum stimulated all of one's senses in the pursuit of a memorable lesson on how Singapore became the nation that it is today.-

-This shot was taken in an exhibit showing how, as the nation changed, the fashion followed suit.-

Covered in the museum were exhibits on pre and post war. Exhibits on the changes that had occurred from the time that Singapore was founded as a colony by the Dutch, later to be taken by the famous British nobleman, Sir Stamford Raffels. Trev and I were able to relive the last moments before the Japanese had subdued and conquered the allied troops. We felt like we were there, during the Japanese occupation when the citizens were bound between loyalty to the British, loyalty to the Sing. nation itself and loyalties to their oppressors. And, after all of this, we were able to walk through the changes of the struggling nation as it fought to find its identity as an independent port-nation in an ever modernizing world.

-A lesson on the origin of mankind on the beautiful island of Singapore.-

-Music and motion picture's influence on a developing nation.-

-Trev's favorite 'Sing' song from the 60's.-

--Significant photos from Singapore's history.-

And, Back to Singapore

-Two Merlions and The Singapore Flyer (a replica of The London's Eye).-

Without a doubt one of our favorite cities. Singapore, has been a much appreciated break from the lesser organized and unpredictable countries we've been in previously on our trip. Here are a few shots that we managed to take while walking the streets.

-What's left of the gate on the crest of Fort Canning. The enclosure was built by the British during their colonial period in order to ensure the safety of their troops and the expat Brits.-

-Colourful shutters.-

-Under the bridge.-

-The Fullerton Hotel on Boat Quay.-

-The famous Merlion.-

A Nightmare Come to Life

Journal Excerpt
September 28, 2008 -Kuta, Bali.-

Jess just stepped on the islands most poisonous snake. I saw it wiggling down the road before she did and I couldn't even warn her. I just ran. here was never any question in my mind whether it would be fight or flight. Flight is always the way to go. But, what I wasn't expecting were my other bodily functions to shut down. I couldn't have spoken if I tried. All I could do, is exactly what I did... run.

Some locals came running. I turned around to see what they would do. They all stayed a healthy distance back and exclaimed in excitement, "Ahh, THIS is the most poisonous snake... THE MOST POISONOUS!" They seemed almost excited to see the wretched little thing on the ground.

I asked what they would do, kill it? They said no, that it should just go back to the water. I had recognised it instantly when I'd first fled from it. It was the same kind of slim-creature they had featured on Planet Earth - The BBC documentary series. The kind that kills many local fishermen every year.

-A bite injects 10-15 milligrams of poison.
1.5 milligrams is enough to kill an adult.-**

I was mortified as it squiggled down the beach towards the warm, inviting waters I had just come from. I spent all day in the water, snorkeling, snapping shots of innocent fish. I had been telling myself all the time that snakes such as the one Jess had just stepped on were not common. But there it was, black and white and just as evil as could be. If you're wondering, Jess was not bitten. But, if she was, we would have had to rush her to the island's nurse. He would administer he anti-venom. If it takes too long to get a person this anti-venom, the locals informed me, (as they made the familiar motion of a finger sweeping across their neck) the unlucky person would die.

And so, after my snake mishap (Trev calls it an adventure but I told him adventures require and element of fun and no part of this experience was fun) I ask myself, 'Why am I here?'

I want to go home.

**This picture was taken from the internet... as if I would stay around long enough to shoot a picture if I saw one of these things while swimming!!

October 17, 2008

Four Days and Four NIghts: Komodo Boat Trip

Journal Excerpt - Day 4
October 9th, 2008

-Water buffalo skulls. Rinca Island Ranger Station, Komodo National Park, Indonesia.-

Today we awoke bright and early at the gates of Rinca Island, Komodo National Park. Trev and I were able to pay our guide just a little extra and in return get an extra hour tagged onto our tour.

The park and the island were gorgeous. Breathtaking landscapes and amazing animals.

-The vast sprawling landscapes of Rinca Island.-

-A hungry Komodo.-

As we trudged through the forest in the blistering heat we were able to see many dragons. One was sitting on her nest, a maze of holes in the ground (One hole will house the delicate eggs while the remainder of the holes are constructed to confuse predators). One watching a monkey in a tree. And, one eyeing up a water buffalo at the local watering hole.

-A Komodo's future dinner...-

All of them were so large, so powerful and so ominous. On one hand, it was hard to be afraid of them as they lay soaking up the sun. On the other hand, all of the tale of Komodo-caused death runs through one's mind. I found myself growing comfortable in their midst and that was a little scary.

-Pensive monkey. -

-They reach lenghts of up to 4 meters and live to be 60 years of age. They can run 18 Km/hr and their bite is deadly.-

After the park we headed out on the sea again, this time heading for one more swimming stop and then off to our final destination, Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.

Our last swimming stop was beautiful. No snakes. Really, no coral to speak of but wonderfully, fine white sand and ultra warm water.

-Clown fish, now endangered because of the popularity caused by Disney's Finding Nemo.-

We ended our trip tonight as we docked in the Flores harbour. We left the boat to book flights back to Denpasar, Bali, found and ATM and dinner and then decided to stay on the boat for one more night. Tomorrow it's on to a new adventure.

October 15, 2008

Four Days and Four Nights: Komodo Boat Trip

Journal Excerpt - Day 3
October 8th, 2008

-A giant male Komodo. Komodo Island, Indonesia.-

When I woke up this morning the boat was still humming along. The night passed quickly. I woke up many times but somehow managed to fall back to sleep quickly.

After breakfast we stopped in the bay of a small island adjacent to Komodo Island. We jumped in the water and headed for shore. The jellyfish and sea lice were ruthless. As we swam quickly to shore and as we approached the beach we realized that the water was riddled with sea urchins. We were relieved to make it to the hot sand in one piece with nothing extra protruding from our dripping bodies.

-An uninhabited island off of Komodo Island. Komodo in the distance.-

We started to climb up the mountain. Trev began to get dizzy and I was so worried about snakes in the grass that we turned back. As we began to wade out in the water I noticed a wiggling motion. Another snake. Another Banded Sea Krait. One bite injects 10 milligrams, while 1.5 milligrams is enough to kill an adult. Needless to say we waited for our crew to pick us up in the canoe. Jellyfish, sea urchins, sea lice and sea krait sound a little to painful for me.

-Giant clam. Red Beach, Komodo National Park, Indonesia.-

Heading off again we arrived shortly as Red Beach. Amazing coral. Amazing fish. Trev and I saw a parrot fish that had to be more than two feet long. Red beach is within Komodo National Park and as such is off limit for fishing and the coral is also protected. I imagine this underwater wonderland could be a good representation of what reefs could have looked like in the past.

The last part of our day took us to Komodo National Park on Komodo Island. Upon arriving we were greeted by our guides. Two guides, with forked reptile handling sticks per group. They ran us throught the strict proceedures for our walk; stick with the group, no talking, watch were you step, and stay behind the guide at all times.

-Park entrance.-

As we started our walk into the jungle the winds picked up and it started to drizzle. None of us minded, our minds were set on catching a glimpse of dragons in the wild. We weren't dissapointed. The king of all lizards were laying sprawled on the jungle floor, surrounded by deer and wild boar. They were massive and sloth-like, yet so dangerous. In fact we were told that just last year a small boy from the village on Komodo was eaten by hungry dragons. Our guide kept a wary eye on the giants while ensuring that us, camera happy tourists, stayed well back. It was amazing to see these rare magnificent beasts in their natural habitat wilderness of Indonesia.

-A hustlers boat. He rowed out to sell us trinkets as we bedded down for the night.-

Docking in a bay off the Island of Komodo, we settled down for the night. As we watched the sun set we were enthralled by the flying foxes (large bats) flying to and fro above our boat. The evening has been peaceful in this perfectly calm bay.

-Sunset over Komodo National Park.-

Four Days and Four Nights: Komodo Boat Trip

Journal Excerpt - Day2
October 7th, 2008

-Beautiful starfish surrounded by myrids of tropical fish.
An uninhabited island off of Sambawa.-

Considering we slept on a rocking boat last night, on thin little bug-ridden mats, we slept well. The boat started up again at 4am and we'd already made good distance by the time we rolled out off our mats. The next time that we stopped was for breakfast and to trek through the jungle. The falls were beautiful but the mucking through the mud, which was devouring people's flip-flops, was not as appealing as swimming to the beach among hundreds of wretched jellyfish.

-Our eating arrangements. Menu: Rice, noodles, and some fruit.-

Off again, this time sailing to a small island with a salt lake in the middle of a small mountain range.

As always we swam to shore, some walked to the lake and the rest remained in the bay examining the untouched coral and marveling at the myriads of fish. The colour and vast variety of sea life was astounding. Nothing broken, nothing touched by man. The fish swam in circles around us inspecting us as we inspected them. Trev and I saw a small brown snake swimming in the reeds. I hate snakes.

-The fish were not afraid of us but swam in circles around us.-

Getting back on the boat we began a foreboding 18 hour journey to Komodo Island. The water was smooth in the afternoon as well as in the evening, but as night approached and we settled down to sleep the open water had become rough again. The boat was tossed to and fro and every so often as we would hit a wave straight on the spray would cover us, all tucked into our beds. We'll drive straight through until morning and see if we survive.

-The bay was filled with extravagant coral.-