Sunday, January 17, 2010

Coming at Ya from Borneo Malaysia!!!

Hey All - I guess I spoiled the surprise, but I'm writing to you from Malaysia!!! Yesterday we (Amanda A, hereafter AA, and Shari B, hereafter SB) flew from Seoul to Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the Sabah province of Borneo Malaysia. The plan is to travel west from here through Brunei and the Malaysian province of Sarawak, then hop on a boat or a plan to Singapore and explore some of Peninsular Malaysia. Well that's the first 3 weeks. I'm splitting off from the girls in Kuala Lampur to fly to Chiang Mai Thailand, for a week at Elephant Nature Park (you may recall me gushing about this place last year).

Now I realize that my last entry ended in November. I've decided I'm not going to write up a huge thing about December/New Years. One of my goals for the New Year was to update this blog more frequently, therefore have shorter entries, easier for ya to digest. A comment I just had from my mom confirms this as a good idea. Here's the highlights from the end of 2009:

- weekend Christmas shopping in Seoul (ate 2.5 feet of subway sandwiches while there, I'm not ashamed!)
- finals at school + Christmas holidays coming up = lots of watching "Merry Christmas Mr. Bean" and singing carols in the classroom
- had a REAL turkey dinner at Jodie and Stephen's place with a few friends, soo soo good!
- Skyped with family back home
- toured around SK with my friend Mike (who was visiting all the way from San Francisco!), showed around Gwangju, Suncheon and Seoul. We went up Namsan Tower (the Seoul equivalent of the CN Tower) and did a temple stay at HwaGaeSa.
- Snowball fight with Zen Master and 3:00 AM meditations at HwaGaesa
- 5 days of "Additional In-Service Teacher Training" at Seoul's NIIEC centre
- Desking warmingin a cold teachers office (but you've heard my take on that!)

Here's the pics from it all, they tell the story better than I do anways. December

Also, here's some pics of me teaching (as you requested Uncle Mel!), a cornucopia of hilarious Korean signs/stuff, and the outcome of a funny student assignment. Enjoy

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming...
Ok, so landed in Kota Kinabalu around 3:45pm local time. Getting off the plane, the humidity and sweet smell hit me immediately. My guidebook gave us a good tip on looking for 'minibusses' (ie. minivans) to get into town for 2 Ringgit (60 cents) rather than taking a private taxi from the airport for 30 Ringgit ($10), so we hopped in one going the right direction. One of the passengers was a friendly local who helped us get on the correct city bus to get to the heart of downtown KK, where we could walk to our hostel. Everyone here is really friendly, and in a sincere way (as opposed to the "Friendly" people in Thailand who were happily trying to con you). We're sticking to a budget this trip, so we're staying in a dorm-style room with bunkbeds for 10 people and only fans, no air-conditioning. No privacy, but you meet lots of backpackers from all over. After checking into our hotel and changing out of our winter layers (because it was -5 when we left Seoul), we deided to hit the waterfront nightmarket for some local food for dinner. We ate fried noodles w/ chicken and veggies for $1/plate and drank ABC Miah's, the wierdest thing I've ever tried to suck through a straw. Ingredients included canned corn, condensed milk, grenadine, chopped nuts and some green stuff soaked in syrup for good measure. Shari and I also tried some mystery meat - the vendor told us it was pork, so our best guess is that we ate sections of pig tail. We wandered through the craft market and the fruit market in the hot rain. I tried two new tropical fruits: Mangosteen (very sweet and strange looking) and Duku-langsat(which is like a big grape except that you peel it and the inside comes out in sections like a citrus fruit). We loaded up with fruit to eat for breakfast the next day and made our way back to the hostel. I was exhausted - the trip had started at 10:00pm in Suncheon to catch a midnight bus from Gwangju to Seoul and then get on a Plane at a 11:00am. I'm a light sleeper so I really didn't get much if any sleep on the bus or plane. I decided to hit the showers (a good way to keep cool at night is sleep with your hair wet after all. When I got in, a little pink gecko clambered up the wall away from me. I kept my eye on him as I soaped up, and good thing I did. The little bugger climbed until he hit the ceiling and then started making his way across the ceiling directly above me. He lost his grip right above me, naturally. He landed with a loud splat at my feet. I very gracefully squealed and huddled against the door. We stared at eachother dumbfounded for a moment. Then he spotted the exit, which I just happend to be blocking. I squealed again and hopped to the opposite side of the shower as he scooted out under the door.

Today we headed to Mamutik island by speedboat from KK harbour. We thought we would get rained out, but those ugly storm clouds stayed near the mainland and we got to enjoy some swimming and snorkelling (though, as can be expected in a public swimming area, almost all the coral was dead from being stepped on), Tom Yam Soup for lunch (spicy tomato and herb soup with veggies and chicken) and happened upon a HUGE monitor lizard lounging on the rocks. No seriously, HUGE. HUUUUGGGGGGEEEE! We thought at first he was Komodo dragon. Yeah, that big.

I just finished a big dinner at the food court of a big shopping complex and am heading back to the hostel to relax for the rest of the night. Tomorrow we going to Mt Kinabalu park to do alittle touring of the area (the wet weather makes any serious climbing too much trouble for us) and check out the poring hot springs! I'll let you know how it goes. I cannot WAIT to get into that beautiful jungle that is just pressing itself up against the city. Cross your fingers for me that the rain stays away!!!

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