Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bali, Kaula Lumpur and back to Oz

We arrive into Bali early evening and enjoy the balmy weather and relaxed casual sytle of the Balinese. We have prebooked at the Jayakarta Resort and upon arriving love our choice. Legian beach is lined with good restaurants and the beach hawkers are a friendly bunch. The resort has lovely gardens and 3 big pools where I find a chair absolutely made for me and settle in for some R and R. We catch up with some wonderful friends also on holiday and take in the sights of Ubud and the kids love the monkey forest. One of our boys does a highlights tour of the Bali Hospital with a bad case of bali belly. Had to happen!! Our five days here are just filled with fun and laughter but sorry doesnt make much interesting reading on a blog. I get some suits tailored at a bargain price to match my many pairs of shoes!! Our last 2 days are spent in the lovely Kaula Lumpur one of my favourite Asian cities to grab some last minute shopping and hang out in Chinatown. Lastly we fly back into Australia and its straight back to school for the boys. Hope you enjoyed our blog http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus

Iban Longhouse Lalang Borneo

We head to the airport and take a flight to Kuching in Sarawak, Borneo. We have been looking forward to staying in a longhouse so find a small tour heading that way and jump aboard. There is just us and 3 other travellers. We make our way by vehicle for 5 hours then long boat up river for 2 and finally arrive at our longhouse. We stay with a tribe on the river Skrang at Lalang unfortunately for our kids all the village kids are away at boarding school.

We spend the next couple of days learning how these self sufficient tribes live and enjoy watching them craft baskets, mats and bags from bamboo. They take us into the forest and show us their farming lands where rubber, rice, pineapples are all producing small amounts for them to use or sell. We spend a day in the jungle and they show us how to cook with bamboo over an open fire which was just fantastic. we spend our afternoons swimming in the crystal clear waters of the river or playing soccer on their dusty dirt pitch. We try to learn as much about their culture and tradition as possible and the tattoos that cover the mens bodies. Sadly our stay in borneo has been way to short, 12 days just wasnt enough and we vow to return soon. Next we depart Kuching and head to Bali. http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus

Its a jungle out there! - Sabah, Borneo

We arrive into Kota Kinabalu (KK as they call it) early afternoon and are greeted by a tropical storm. However after the cold weather of China we find the warmth quite nice. We trudge through the rain to our accommodation and settle in. We remember how great Malaysian food is from our past trips to mainland Malaysia so we go straight out to find some. The waterfront markets are in full swing and great restaurants are everywhere. We like this place already!! the following day we head out to Manukan Island for some snorkelling and chilling in the jade waters. Our only complaint is like most of Asia there is always so much rubbish in the water but the islands are beautiful. We are keen to get out in the jungle so we make our way to Sandakan, passing Mount Kinabalu on the way and jump on a three day tour to Kinabatangan via Sepilok Orangutan Centre to see plenty of Orangutan action. Once at our jungle camp, we jump aboard a boat and head up river and discover elephants grazing on elephant grass on the banks. We nose up to the bank and are within 2 metres of a herd of 10 elephants including 2 babies. It was amazing to watch them and enjoy their company, although a little scary at times as the mother got a bit cranky towards the end. so we left them in peace and continued up stream to see probiscus monkeys, macaques, hornbills, egrets, kingfishers and more. After a couple days of trekking through the jungle, cruising the rivers and fighting off leaches we leave with great memories and equally great photos. Its was definetely a highlight of our trip. We head back to Sandakan stopping at the Gomantong Caves to see the nests made by the birds with spit. The nests are harvested and sold for a fortune to the chinese market who use the bird spit in soup, which is apparently a delicasy. Yuk!! hope we did eat that whilst in China, who knows?? We arrive back in Sandakan and spend some time browsing the fish markets, we come across a local village out over the water and josh and nath spend the afternoon playing soccer with the locals which drew quite a crowd. We then take a flight to kuching where we hope to spend a couple days living with the Iban people. http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus

Wuhan, Shanghai to Shenzen

We spend a day in Wuhan which is a lovely city, very easy to get around and the city centre has a mall thats a no car zone, so its great to just wander and not dodge traffic. Wuhan has a river through the centre and their riverside strip is great for kids with playgrounds, walking paths and plenty to see and do. We take the night train to Shanghai arriving early morning we head into the "bund" along the river. There are hawkers everywhere trying to sell us just about anything.
Shanghai boosts to have more skyscrapers than New York and looking towards the skyline they are probably right. The city lights up at night and is quite a sight particularly along the river, we splurge on a waterfront restaurant and enjoy it all. However the following morning we decide to head to Shenzen for a couple days of shopping before we fly out to Borneo so we take the lunchtime train. We arrive in Shenzen early morning, find a hotel and set off shopping. Now this place is a shoe lovers dream with good quality leather shoes and boots ranging in price from $1.80aud to $8aud. So it really was essential that I stocked up at those prices!!! We also stocked up on nintendo ds games, handbags and sunglasses at bargain prices. We enjoyed Shenzen, found it very relaxing, cheap and fun. There is an indoor ice skating rink in the shopping centre that we tried out. The skies are blue again and the food great. Now its time to farewell China with my shoe loaded backpack and head to Borneo. http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus

Yangtze River cruising and coathanger chicken

We head to Chongqinq by bus which was a bit of a hell ride. They seemed to be on some kind of world record attempt to cram the most amount of people and bags onto one bus. I was given the seat behind the driver and he seemed to spit out the window every couple of seconds. I began to wonder just how much spit one's body can produce?? The supposably 4 hour drive took 6 and we arrive in Chongqinq in the rain. This cities roads are small and their are stairs everywhere we spend the afternoon be pushed and shoved around the city awaiting our Chinese cruise boats departure that evening. We've booked on for 3 days to explore by boat the 3rd longest river in the world "The Yangtze".
We head down to the docks and see dozens of cruise boats, we smile pleased at the site of the impressive white cruiser infront of us, then sadly our guide whisks us past that one to the not so glam looking one behind it. You get what you pay for!!! Due to it being winter not many boats are operating so we were only able to book the trip in China and well, beggers cant be choosers! We board our boat with around 80 others, all Chinese and soon discover that not one passenger or crew member speaks English so its going to be a quite trip. Our cabin was small but clean and we did have a very large viewing window which was a bonus. We spend the next three days admiring the tall cliffs and mountains that line the river, watching local people go about their work and chores, massive coal shipping terminals are dotted along the way. We see people using bullocks and horses to plough their land difficultly placed on the side of a hill and partly consisting of rock.

We are a little taken back when we walk out the front deck and see the restaurants food hanging from the boat deck, the chickens strung up on coathangers and the beef and fish tied to the railings. Its very common to see food hanging from house balconies all over China but I guess we didnt expect our food to be hanging there!! The Yangtze floods most years to enormous levels, we stop regularly at towns along the way to discover temples and sights and soon discover that you've got to love steps on the Yangtze. The town are built above the flood level so around 400 stairs minimum from boat to town is standard. No overwieght locals here!! The people who live along the Yangtze seem to be mainly farming and fishing folk. We have a great time, very relaxing and a highlight being a side boat trip into "Three little Gorges" where we saw blue skies (first time in weeks due to smog) and jade green waters and sheer rock walls. We complete our cruise and head to Wuhan. http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus

1000 buddha cliffs and giant buddha Leshan

We take a bus from Chengdu station to Leshan then a pedicab to visit the Giant Buddha. This buddha carved into a cliff above the water is astounding. Its enormous and all began when one ambatious monk decided to start carving, to give you an idea of size its toenails are 6m wide. We viewed the buddha from a boat on the water and still have sore necks from gazing up at this amazing site. We then made our way to a small town called Jiajiang to visit the equally impressive 1000 buddha cliffs. There are infact around 2400 buddhas carved into the cliffs along the river. The area is relaxing and tranquil with small farms and housing dotting the river side. We visit a temple on the hillside where a monk blessed the boys. We headed back into the township and it was obvious they dont see many westerners here as we were quite an attraction. People were coming out of their shops to stare at the boys as we passed. We make our way back to the bus station and back to Chengdu. http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus

Chengdu, Pandas and all that spice!!!!

We arrived off the night train from Xian with a good dose of coal in our chests from the coal burning heaters they stoked all through the night. We make our way to a hostel and get settled in. We have come to Chengdu particularly to see the Pandas, the massive centre based here is running an extremely successful Panda breeding programme. Will it didnt disappoint, its impossible to not adore these gorgeous animals while you watch them play. The nursery is a must see with tiny babies learning to stand, roll and give the keepers a hard time. The grounds are large, spacious, clean and their is a large interactive information centre great for kids and adults. We spend a few days living on Mcdonalds and Pizza hut in Chengdu as the food in this sichuan province is the spicest and hottest we've ever experienced and dont bother asking for no spice as its likely that they will either refuse or not understand anyway. One lady flatly refused to not spice the kids chicken wings at a roadside stall even though she understood. Made us wonder if thats how they kill the germs?? http://www.byokids.com.au/ ...your family travel gurus