FINALLY!!! I have the video up on vimeo from our trip to Bintan, Indonesia. Check it out here: http://www.vimeo.com/15015151 Our trip to Borneo will be up sometime next week.
Late post, but I've been back in the US for about 12 days now. I still have to write about our trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, which I have a lot to write about. That will have to wait. I've been busy with moving out of my old place and into the new one in Madison. Currently I'm up in Minnesota visiting my brother, his wife and my new niece Ella, who is just 3 months old! I'll be heading back to Wisconsin soon and hopefully be finishing up writing about my trip and putting more pics and vids up.
Well there will be no new pictures featured on Gabe's Microblog for a while. It seems I may have had too much fun celebrating my birthday on wednesday night and ended up having my wallet and camera stolen right out of my pocket, without me realizing it. I've filed police reports and had all my cards cancelled so everything is okay. That's really all for now, but I'll be writing a full post soon about our activities from the weekend (sans pictures obviously).
That night we all met up back at the hostel. We decided that we'd like to watch a movie and Martin had suggested that we go Great World City, which is just another of the never-ending shopping malls in Singapore. So we hopped on the bus and got there soon enough. We ate at the food court in there which was really well decorated and had some great food in it. I ate at the Japanese stall that had a chicken and scallops bento box special, which was super tasty. We then went up to the theater that is located just a few floors above the food court. We were deciding whether to see Despicable Me (with Steve Carrel as the lead voice actor) or Predators (the 3rd in the Predator series). Predators eventually won out and... honestly the movie may be one of the worst I had ever seen. It's best just to leave your brain at the door, then the movie becomes a little more entertaining.
This last week wasn't too eventful. On Tuesday we got sushi dinner with Yi Han at the mall near the Bugis MRT station. Next week Wednesday I'm giving a presentation to my department about the research I've done back in Madison, which should be fun. Otherwise not too much beside my 21st birthday next Tuesday :D
One other bit of news from Madison: my lab sent me an e-mail today that there is going to a special on the Discovery Channel that includes the footage they filmed in my lab and a brief interview with the Professor of the lab (Cameron Currie) and one of out post-doctoral research fellows (Garret Suen). The series is called "Powering the Future" and we are featured on the first episode that premieres on Saturday, July 17th at 9:00PM Eastern, 8:00PM Central on the Discovery Channel.
This weekend I'm staying in Singapore and everybody else is heading out to the island of Tioman, Malaysia. I'm staying just to save a little bit of cash and to finally get around to editing all the video I've recorded.
Last Wednesday Drew's parents came to Singapore after spending nearly a week in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We went to Esplanade, which we had gone to the week before and is a shopping mall that has a performing arts center. Esplanade is located right on the waterfront and has amazing views of the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the downtown skyscrapers. Like most malls it also had a hawker-like center which had some really good food albeit a little more expensive than most other hawker centers. Yi Han met us there. We got stingray, mutabak, satay, seafood fried rice, and crayfish (which are like 50x larger than the crayfish in the US). After finishing we walked about Esplanade and wanted to see the Merlion that shoot water into the bay, but it was all covered up for maintenance. Thursday nothing interesting really happened so I'm not going to write about that day.
Friday morning we headed to Changi Airport to catch out 10:40 AM flight to Kuching, Malaysia, which is on the island of Borneo. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and houses portions of three countries on there: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. We arrived at the Kuching International Airport at about 12:25 PM. We took a taxi to downtown Kuching to Tracks Bed and Breakfast where were were staying. Tracks was really nice and clean. One the stairs up to it (it was on the second story of the building) there were red walls where lots of people that had stayed there wrote messages and signed their names about how much they enjoyed it. You had to remove your shoes prior to going in and they provided toast with jam and coffee or tea every morning. We stayed in their dormitory room which had 5 bunk beds in it. There were additional rooms that had either one bunk bed or a double bed in them. But for only about 3 USD a night it was a great deal to stay in the dormitory. One of the first people we met there was a girl from Arizona, who was there for the Interhash. The Interhash is a race that happens every two years and has people come from 60 different countries. They described themselves as a drinking club with a running problem and have lots of local clubs all over the world. The race is organized by local hash house harriers who decide on a trail and lay out paper to dictate the trail. The runners are called hounds and the people that lay out the trail are the hares.
The following morning we got up early and were picked up at 8:30 AM to go kayaking down a river through the jungle. The woman that was our guide was super nice. We first went to the orangutan park. Here they set out some food on a platform about 20 or so meters from where the visitors stand to attract the orangutans to come out. While we were out there, four of the orangutans came out to eat. Two of them were a mother-child pair, which was really cool to see the child cling to the parent as she climbed about the trees. The people at the park came to inform us that one orangutan had come down pretty close into the center if we were interested in seeing it. This orangutan was much closer and was just climbing across a rope over one of the paths. We inspected some pens that had crocodiles in them (one of which had a live chicken in it awaiting it's demise) and decided to move on to kayaking.
Once we got the kayaks and got to the starting point we strapped into some life jackets. We were then directed down to a little stream where the kayaks were waiting. Children we laughing and playing in the stream. Gavin and Lindsay were in one kayak and I was paired with our guide. It was already awe-inspiring just gliding gently across the water admiring the jungle surrounding us. A man and woman in a motorized boat passed us being followed closely by a dog that came bounding out of the water onto the shore. Again I feel I cannot fully encapsulate the experience of kayaking down the river but I'll do my best. Our guide had pointed out a rock formation early on that looked like a turtle, then told us that the previous day two girls from Spain had capsized there. They were fine though, but the water was a lot rougher that day because it had rained/was raining. As we went along further we came across some large rock cliffs that had the lower portion carved out by the river. We floated below them so I could feel the surface of the rock, which wasn't smooth rather it was like thousands of chips had been taken out of it. We stopped at a village just off the river abour 1/3 of the way through the trip. This was really cool just to see the people. There were a bunch of children sitting inside a house watching Tom and Jerry cracking up like little kids do. It began to rain lightly while were there, but it didn't bother us. We got to taste some fresh peppercorns, which we tasty and very spicy. Our guide had picked up some bananas and we headed back to the kayaks.
It was fairly easy going on the rest of the trip. The river had a short stretch of rapids which were a lot of fun and we wished there had been more of them to go across. There was a really cool mountain that was almost a perfect cone rising out in the distance densely covered in green trees. We stopped at a beach at one of the river bends to eat lunch. The guide service had prepared some egg salad sandwiches that had cucumber on them too. I was happily snacking on my sandwich until the sandflies began to swarm me and I was force into the water. It was nice, cool, and shallow for us just to lounge in and relax. I shortly began to realize how many sandflies their were and that were biting me once I got out of the water. So after a few bananas we got back into the kayaks to evade the insects. But they kept biting at my elbows, so the guide gave us some oil that helped repel them since DEET did little to no good. The trip didn't end too long after that, so we helped take the kayaks up a hill to the van. We changed out of our wet swimsuits and dried off a little before signing their guestbook and getting into the van.
Our guide took us right back to the hostel and we thanked them sincerely for the trip. We went back to the hostel so we could get a chance to shower and change. We talked with Flick and Claudia for a bit and they were going to get dinner early then go to a local market. Our plans were to do that in the reverse order so we headed off to the market without them. The market was really cool, because it wasn't super touristy. It was filled with local foods, fresh vegetables, fruits and meats. I at a peanut pancake type thing which was delicious. We explored more, snacking here and there at the market. We managed to find the oil that our kayaking guide had so we would be prepared for Bako the following day. As it got later we headed over to a shopping mall across the street from the market to get some dried fruits also for the trip. Once we got those, we ate at the stalls between the market and the shopping mall, where I got kolo mee (another item on foods we should try). It was pretty good, but nothing overly amazing. We walked back to the hostel to catch the Germany vs. Spain match in the quarter finals of the World Cup. After the game ended, Claudia and Flick came back to the B&B. Claudia had been mugged by a man on a motorbike and had gotten dragged about 20 meters. Luckily she managed to hold onto her bag and the strap broke so the mugger didn't get her passport or money. I guess this happens occasionally, where if you are carrying a purse or bag just across one shoulder, people on motorbikes will drive by and try to snatch it away.
On Sunday we once again got up early so we could catch the 8 AM bus to the Bako National Park Terminal. Due to the unfortunate events that happened to our English friends we had to go without them. The bus takes us to the terminal which then you have to charter a boat to take you to the actual park. We managed to meet a couple from the Netherlands on the bus ride that would share a boat so it was less expensive. The trip was amazing right from the beginning. We were in a fairly small boat speeding across the open waters of the South China Sea. To our right was the island of Borneo, watching the jungle rise up up and fall as the terrain changed from beaches to cliffs. The boat approached an area of shallow water where a wooden dock and series of low bridges were built to allow people to traverse from the park center to the trails. There were mudskippers crawling along the shore towards the water. As we approached the trail there just seemed to be a small gap in the dense foliage. I jokingly had said, "welcome to Jurassic Park," just because that's exactly what it looked like.
We immediately saw a monkey just outside the registration center chilling. He just watched us as we applied our layers of sealant: bug spray, sun screen, and some magic Chinese oil that supposedly prevents insect bites and cancer or something (haha). We chose the trail that lead to some waterfalls because it said we could reach there in 2 hrs 30 min, which would allow us enough time to get back and catch our return boat. I find it difficult to explain what it was like to trek through the jungle, but it was an experience I will always remember and I'd love to see the rest of the trails at Bako. Hopefully the pictures and video I put up can help cover what the experience was like and fill in what my words are missing. We didn't see too much wildlife besides insects and pitcher plants, but even those were cool enough for me. A fair part of the hike was up hill at the begging and finally we ended up at a plateau, where in areas the tree cover was thin enough that you could see the ocean. The first bit of wildlife we had come across was a 3-4 cm wide trail (stream is probably a better description) of ants across a large rock, which I was really excited for due to my appreciation for ants after working in the Currie lab. We also saw some crazy colored gold ants that I had also seen in Singapore, but there were a lot more of them here. Just to add to the imagery of this trip is that I was absolutely saturated in sweat after about an hour of hiking. Also mind you the only things I had on me were my camcorder and a 1.5 L bottle of water.
Due to a "clerical" error on my part there were not enough beds for us to stay at Tracks that night. So we caught a bus back to downtown Kuching and walked back to Tracks to get our things to head to an affiliated B&B, Threehouse. Just outside the hostel next to Tracks, we saw Claudia and Flick. Claudia's injuries were looking fairly bad at that point, but they were just trying to air them out so they would dry. We agreed that we would come back there at 6 PM then get dinner at a Lebanese restaurant that was near China street. We made it to Threehouse using the crude map I had drawn on the back of my itinerary and we greeted by the own Bindi (the jungle girl, as she wrote in her e-mail). Surprisingly she was from Sweden. She had come to Kuching because her brother married a woman from there and he had a couple kids as well. Bindi was super talkative, and we felt a little crazy, but in a good way. Once we got our keys and a short tour of the B&B we showered and changed so we could meet up with the other girls for dinner. Little Lebanon was the name of the restaurant. I ended up ordering chicken cooked in bamboo with Thai style rice, and it was fantastic. We sat there and talked for quite a while until it got late and began to rain. We got the other girls facebook information so we could add them in case they are ever in the US or we're in the UK.
Once we got back to the hostel I talked with Bindi for a little while and went to the common room to see what was going on in there. One of the boarders from Denmark was watching the most recent Harry Potter movie so I decided to stay and watch it too. Lindsay watched for a while but went to bed about an hour earlier than I did, which was smart since we had a taxi coming for us at 5:45 AM the next day. Speaking of that, we all ended up waking up rather abruptly at about 5:30 AM because we were told that our taxi had just gotten there. Luckily we had already packed and didn't need to get ready so we were on our way by about 5:40 AM. When we got to the airport it turned out that AirAsia's check-in desks don't open until 7 anyway. So we waited and finally were able to check in. We got some coffee and a muffin prior to going through security and before we knew it we were back in Singapore and at BTI, which in retrospect was dumb because I didn't really end up doing anything that day.
Tuesday night we were invited over by one of the people working in Lindsay's lab, Daniel Ng, to have dinner and watch the movie "Snatch" starring Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, and various other actors. If you haven't seen it I would recommend it because it is an incredibly well-done and entertaining movie. For dinner we had a sweet rice and a bunch of different Chinese dishes that we could pick and choose as we wanted. After dinner they gave us an ice tea that had red dates and longan (which is a relative to lychee and rambutan and is known as cat's eye) in it.
Just last night we went out to get steamboat with the Daniel that is from Austria and is staying at the hostel. Steamboat is a type of restaurant where the tables have a heating element in the middle of them (either gas or electric) then a pot of broth is put on it and heated until boiling. One half of the pot just had a chicken stock it seemed and the other was loaded with chilies and spices. Then they have a refrigerator that looks like a big ice cream freezer that is filled with various meats, like pork, chicken, fish, and prawns. It was 15 SGD so it was probably the most expensive meal we've had yet, but it was definitely worth it. After we finished there Akilah and Gavin headed back to the hostel and the rest of us went out towards Clarke Quay to watch the football (soccer) match. We ultimately ended up at a bar I couldn't tell you the name of, but we went in because they didn't have a cover charge. They had live music playing that ended just a few minutes before the match began. We stood and watched the game for a while then I decided to inspect the bar to see what they had, since the place also had their own microbrewery. The India Pale Ale (IPA) looked good so I asked how much and was immediately startled when they said 17 SGD, but after a moment of recovery I decided it was worth it. After drinking it I would say that I made a good decision (and another good decision by only buying one, haha). We didn't get back to the hostel until about 5 AM, which made for a rough morning/day at BTI on Thursday.
This coming weekend, we're staying in Singapore, but don't have any plans yet. Peace.
Once again another weekend full of travel. This past weekend we went to Bangkok, Thailand. Don't be concerned, the civil strife had been put down prior to us even leaving for Singapore by the government and there hasn't been any other activity since. It was a fairly short flight there, just about 2 hr 25 min. We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Royal Pacific, and checked in but immediately we had a problem because we only had two twin beds instead of a twin and double like we were expecting. We finally got that resolved and got a cot for the room. Then we had to wait for Drew to meet us at the hotel because he though his parents were coming this weekend so we all were going to meet them, but in reality they were coming this week. Drew got to Bangkok earlier that day and we were hoping that he survived the day on his own... luckily he did and got us caught up on his activities for the day. Afterwards we crashed for the night so we could get up early and explore some Buddhist temples.
USA! USA! USA! If you haven't been watching the FIFA World Cup then you have no clue why I'm so excited. Anyway, last night we were invited to a sports bar by one of the guys at BTI to watch the football (soccer) match. Beforehand we went to a practice TEDx talk that was held in the Matrix building at BTI. The big TEDx event is going to be held in September (if you're not familiar with TED talks click here and check them out). Only two of the five speakers were there, but the ones that spoke were pretty good. One of them covered how the coat switching of Trypanosma brucei worked and the other spoke about the possibilities of the Human Genome Project that still haven't happened despite it being completed a decade ago.
After those were through we headed back to the hostel to drop off our things and then went to the MRT station and took the train to Marina Bay. The sports bar was really cool. It had two large projection screens: one with the US vs Algeria match and the other with the England vs Slovenia match. It was a lot of fun to watch the games there and I was surprised that most of the people were cheering for the US to win. If you watched it, you know it was a very exciting game and a little frustrating because the US had a lot of missed goal opportunities. When Donovan made the final goal in the 91st minute the whole bar just exploded with cheers; people we high-fiving and hugging and it was awesome.
Pictures are up from KL, still no videos though; it seems I can't find enough time to finish 'em up. That's all for now. Expect a new post on Monday or Tuesday.