Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beijing Outing: The Zoo

Last weekend we went to the zoo.  Quite the experience! 

It was super hot and I was just over taking pictures of the animals -- except for the super cute panda bears. :)

"Look Out the Stairs"

Ummm...that doesn't look to "artificial" to me??

Everyone was feeding the bears - despite the signs EVERYWHERE saying 'PLEASE DON'T FEED THE BEARS'

Riding a kangaroo in the Australia section of the zoo I'm pretty sure this was an actual hot DOG (ie DOG meat) that we ordered for lunch.  It certainly didn't look ANYthing like regular hot dogs in the US do!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beijing Outing: The Summer Palace

I get SOME free time here and there to do fun things in Beijing.  Unfortunately, they usually involve doing them with my boss's family and/or kids!

Last weekend we went to the Summer Palace in Beijing.  One of my travel books talked about it:  "In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value." It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park."

So we rented a little motor boat and hung out on Kunming Lake with some snacks for the afternoon!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Langkawi, Malaysia

It's been awhile since I've updated this...

I'm now on the main island of Langkawi, Malaysia.  It truly is an amazing place!!  It might even top the beaches and islands of Thailand! (It probably helps too that I'm staying at The Four Seasons Resort and not at a $2 hostel...)

I left Beijing very early Saturday morning, took a six hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, had a two or three hour layover (not really enough time to leave the airport to see the city) and then another 1 hour flight on a little plane to the island of Langkawi.  It was so cool to fly in here...little islands all over!  There are 99 islands here, only 4 of which are inhabited. 

I didn't really do anything the first night, just walked around and tried to figure out this resort!  Definitely the nicest resort on this whole island!  I men they take you around on GOLF CARTS here - haha!  I've never stayed anywhere even close to as nice as this place!

Swimming pool in front of the villa

View from front veranda.  For real.

View of villa from the beach

Outdoor shower!

Most comfortable bed EVER.

My work spot for the week

It kind of sucks though because it is on the northeast corner of the island...the only two things up here are the Four Seasons and one other fancy resort.  It is the secluded part of the island with private beaches, etc.  Everything else is on the opposite part of the island...which is only about 20 minutes away.  The island is pretty small. 

It is SO green and tropical and beautiful white sand beaches!  I've got up early and ran in the mornings on the beach - I LOVE it!  I could get used to living on the ocean, I think! J  They have the mot beautiful sunsets I've ever seen here!

(Warning: Sunset picture overload)

Yesterday, I worked a little bit in the morning, and laid on the beach and swam in the pools and ocean in the afternoon - the water is SO warm here! 

For my momma.  She misses me. :)

Holding Annie (bosses kid) in one of the pools.

Last night I went to the concierge desk and told them I wanted to rent a motor bike and a tour guide and go all over the island.  They looked at me like I was crazy!  This is a Muslim country and apparently is not all that safe for young females alone.  (All of the females were those hijab full body robe things here all you can see is there weird...and here I am in short shorts and a tank top with my long hair flowing.  Oops.) They wanted me to take one of there fancy Four Seasons guys in a private car...not interested.  So they called a taxi for me and said he would take me to the main part of the town.  I was planning on just finding some random guy there on a motorbike to take me around, like I did in Vietnam and Thailand.  That’s WAY more fun!  But after talking with my taxi driver, Muhammed, on the way there, he told me it was in deed very dangerous, especially at night --  the rebels or bad guys or whoever come out of the ‘jungle’ (thick trees that cover the hillside) and kidnap people.   AND a motorbike was almost quadruple the price of a taxi.  FINE...I decided to just hang with Muhammed...he was pretty cool, let me sit in the front seat, turn up load music and roll the windows favorite!  We negotiated a rate for three hours (less than $30 USD) and off we went.  He took me to a shopping mall, this little outdoor shopping area where shops lined the streets, some restaurants, the Eagle Square (see picture), just all over!  It was great - he let me get out wherever I wanted and just waited there for me to look around and shop.

When I was finally done shopping I decided to head back to the resort.  So we headed back, and then he said, 'One moment, maybe five minute, I stop and buy something' Hmmm...okay?  I had no idea what was going on and started to get a little worried.  We went off the main road and down some little dirt road, around a corner, and he pulled up in front of some little dirty shop, and got out.  He wasn't gone very long, and came back with another guy walking beside him talking.  My heart started to race and I had no idea what I was going to do if they tried to take me...I was actually looking for the door lock and then the other guy turned the other way to walk off, Muhammad pulled out a new pack of cigarettes from his pocket and got in the problem.  I don't know why I got all worked up...but he's the one who told me it was dangerous!  When we were driving home, we saw a couple little groups of motorbike guys, and Muhammed pointed and said, 'SEE!  Muslim!  They take you up to mountain and (he put his hand up to his neck and pretended to slice his head off).  Great...Okay, okay, so I'm glad I didn't find some random guy to take me on my tour!  Then less than five minutes later, a bus literally ran a motorbike off the road.  So AGAIN, he said, 'SEE!  Very dangerous at night!'  It was pretty funny...he made his point clear.  Cars don't watch out for motorbikes and motorbikes don't watch out for cars over here.  So I think I'll just stick with Muhammed from now on...he gave me his number and told me to call him if I wanted to go anywhere else - he knows the island like the back of his hand since he has lived here his whole life and is probably in his 60's. 

Just hanging out today.  Tomorrow we are going to ride the cable cars up to the top of some mountain to get a panoramic view of Langkawi!  Pretty excited about that!

Okay, that's all for now.  Might update one more time from here...or might not hear from me until I'm back in Beijing next week...

PS - One more thing...  The beds here are absolutely perfect - it's kind of like just falling into a cloud...everything is so soft!  I've been sleeping great!!  This morning I ran on the beach again, and am just sitting here outside my sweet room listening to some loud music and looking at the beach/ocean!  I think I might head down there this afternoon for a swim or a walk in the sand...  Aaahh, this is the life! :)