Sunday, March 30, 2014

Quiet ... too quiet

Up at the Lake

We visited Lake Kenyir in the first few weeks after we came here in 2011.  At that time the road to the lake was being repaired, and the lake was pretty much 'closed' as it was the off-season - although other than a bit of rain and the over-abundance of mosquitoes we couldn't really see why. It was a pretty place, but not terribly exciting, so we didn't go back...

Until last week.

It was school holidays, which is the time when every family gets into their little car and putters off here and there. We thought we might just enjoy hanging in Kuala Terengganu, but after discovering that the beach area was overtaken by "Terengganu Bike Week", crowded with market stalls and eager locals, revving motor bikes, a variety of pumpkin-carriage pony rides, and blaring music from the sound-shell ... we retreated back to our apartment to regroup. And decided that it was time to revisit the lake for a bit of peace and quiet.

Checking the Lake Kenyir Resort on the Internet we noticed that there was just one lake view room available. So we packed bags just in case it was still there, and headed on up to the lake.

We came to a car park, and an empty building with a phone and a sign that said "Phone 3 for buggy". Well, we weren't sure that we wanted a buggy - what was this, a golf resort? So we started walking off to explore. Suddenly a little man came running after us, telling us a buggy was on its was (so you don't have to phone?) and that we were heading towards the servants quarters where we shouldn't be.

View from the lobby

The buggy took us along narrow, winding, hilly paths (no room for a car!) to the lovey high ceilinged open, airy foyer area. Yes, they did have a room, so we climbed back into the buggy, up and down some more hills to our room.

Out on our balcony, looking out over the lake, it was so, so quiet. Even though the resort was apparently (now) full, we could not see or hear anyone other than a boat buzzing along on the lake. Our phones no longer had any reception, and there was no Internet except back in the foyer. Even the cable TV service was suffering from a mysterious 'software problem'.

 'Panoramic' view of our room.

So we sat down and read, and slept, and relaxed.

The next morning we decided to book on the lake cruise - 2 hours, 10am till 12 noon. We needed to check out at 12, so we could do that when we came back.

We caught a buggy to the lobby, where we got on another buggy down past our cabin to the little floating jetty.

Yep, that's the boat. It's the ultimate slow boat! Very, very relaxing.

We visited a herb garden where they told us about various jungle herbs they were growing there. And then we went further and visited a waterfall.

There is something about waterfalls that makes people here want to swim. They generally don't swim in the sea, and no one swims in the lake (it's deep, you will drown) but give them a waterfall and they all want to go into the pool at the bottom.

By the time the slow boat got us all back to the resort, it was after 1pm, and we should have checked out an hour ago. The desk lady had told us there was someone coming in straight after us ...

We all climbed off the boat, and the little man said he would go and 'find out about' a buggy. Yeahh, that was the last we saw of him!

So we wandered off up the hill and down to our cabin. We caught a passing buggy to take us and our bags back to the foyer, and then to rediscover the distant car-park.

Home again ... aah! Internet! It was quiet, but just a wee bit too quiet maybe.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

First trip to the Island for 2014!

It is said that the islands do not 'open' until at least after Chinese New Year, maybe later, depending on the monsoon. But one resort on Kapas Island is always open if at all possible. Mme Rose, at 'Qimi' resort, will try to accommodate anyone at any time. 

So when our youngest daughter, Bea, and her friend were coming to visit for a few days and asked if it would be possible to go out to the island we called on Rose, and she was keen to make it happen.

Bea and Janae live and work on the ship MV Logos Hope, travelling around the world helping people and selling books. Right now they are docked in Singapore, so Bea and Janae flew up to visit us in Kuala Terengganu.

So sailing out to Kapas Island should have been no big deal, right? We were unsure if the monsoon has really passed ... the weather people tell us that the exceptionally cool weather we have been having is caused by the monsoon winds bringing cold air down from China (where it has been snowing). Looking out at the ocean in the morning it was silky and reflective - a bit like before the monsoon starts during the 'doldrums'.

The jetty is usually crowded and busy - this morning it was quiet and empty, and the ticket counters were closed. Rose had promised that she had contacted one of the operators who would bring us across, so we just had to wait a little while. We visited the local market and bought some of their interesting snacky things, and then waited for a boat.

When we eventually got out through the heads from the river into the ocean ... there was a large swell - big shiny lumps rolling through. So the ride across was quite bumpy and exciting, with all four of us hanging on tight to the rails of the little speed boat and laughing a lot.

'Qimi Private Bay' resort has a few chalets at ground level, but most of them are up the hill, hidden in the trees.

Jackie  who builds all of the chalets and other amenities has a real artistic flair, and loves to add driftwood, coral and shells, and bush timber.

Since our last visit we noticed quite a few improvements to the restaurant, and the men were still working on several projects to get ready for the opening of the island.

 The young ladies stayed overnight - we had to return to the mainland the same day and go to work in the morning. They were given a room high up on the hill with a large four-poster bed covered with a neat mosquito net.

It's rather hard to photograph the chalets up on the hill among the trees!

But there is a delightful large swing under the tropical almond trees.

A great place to relax.

And then there is the swimming. We were worried that the water might be all stirred up because of the monsoon and no good for snorkelling.

But it wasn't too cloudy to enjoy the reef. The water was a little cooler than sometimes, but after a few minutes we were very comfortable.

Snorkelling was a new experience for Janae - but it only took her a few minutes to catch on.

It was just magic being the only people enjoying this spectacular place on such a beautiful day.

And, of course, Nemo was waiting down there to say 'hello'.

And then there was the whole island to explore, with no one else around.

The bays are linked by stone steps and walkways, so we don't have to scramble across sharp rocks and through the jungle.

We walked past all the other resorts, all closed up and looking a little unkempt after the monsoon season.

There was some evidence, though, of other island residents ...

What do you reckon?

And then it was time for the two of us to go back to the mainland ...

while the two young ladies enjoyed the experience of sleeping and waking up on Kapas Island.

Yeahhhh. Lovely to be back on our island.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Aaaaand we're back! Kind of.

Back in Kuala Terengganu

We are back in our apartment in Kuala Terengganu - and the monsoon winds are howling through the window seals.

We came back in mid-December, as our apartment was still paid for and it's cheaper to live here than in Australia! But living in Kuala Terengganu without a car was quite difficult. There is no public transport (at all), so it's "shank's pony" if you don't have a car. With the lovely cool weather it wasn't unpleasant to walk all over the place - although walking around KT is never easy with rare footpaths and all sorts of obstacles and dangers along the way. But our main problem was, even though we walked to all of the supermarkets and markets around, we couldn't find anything other than rice and tinned Asian-style food. The fresh food market had very little fish with no one wanting to go fishing in the strong monsoons. And there were no mangoes, few bananas, and even the durian were extra expensive. A couple of times we hiked down to the taxi rank and hired a taxi to take us to the big supermarket (about 5 km), wait for an hour, and then bring us and our shopping home.

A New Job - and New Cars!

By the end of December the new Fellows Project was still not happening ... so they offered us jobs as teacher Mentors. Doing similar work to the fellows, only working with teachers in schools. We each have to mentor teachers in five schools - one school per day - so obviously we both need cars.

We live in this  amazing building

which has two parking floors.

There is one parking spot for each apartment ... and that is our spot, with my little white Saga parked in it!

Down the street aways there is Peter's black Hyundai.

And there he is, sitting in his car.

Because this morning when he went to drive his car - to move it to a free parking spot in a mud-patch further away - it wouldn't start. So he is waiting for the little man from the car rental company. (He doesn't want to leave the car in case he gets a ticket.)

And here he is! Two chaps turned up on a motorbike, with a new battery.

The car is almost fixed ... but what is that in the background?

Yep. Here comes the parking meter inspector. The parking meters are a wee bit complicated - at least for us.

They usually come in pairs, and they are pretty old and worn out looking. They are absolutely everywhere in the city - if you are lucky enough to find a spot without one (or with the stalk but no head), generally it is not a good idea to park there (as we discovered) because you will definitely get a ticket.

We have to concentrate hard to remember the names of the days (Saturday to Thursday, and Friday), and we really don't understand the business about the colours (columns of grey and yellow).

But then it's not expensive - a sen a minute, 60 sen (20c Aus) for an hour. However in our situation (and many others in our building who own two cars and need an all-day spot) it's impossible to come up with enough coins to keep the thing fed.

And the fines are not expensive. Only RM5 ($1.70) if you pay within three days. It's actually cheaper to risk a daily fine than to feed the meter.

We watched the inspector go down the line of cars outside of the building checking each one. No one had put money in the meters - but he did not write any tickets. One lady came rushing out of her shop and spoke to him, and her car didn't get a ticket either. Obviously, there is something else we don't know about.

Meeting up with old friends

While the Fellows' Project is delayed, so is the Mentors' job that we are employed on - we are all set to go, and waiting around for some important official things to take place first. That gave us a chance to attend an afternoon tea with our old friends from the IPG celebrating the retirement of the lady who was our Head of Department.

Soon we will have a visit from our youngest daughter and her friend, and brave the monsoon winds (which are gradually dying down) for a night on Kapas, first for the year.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jumping out of a Perfectly Good Plane

James' (son) birthday is very soon, Lisa (wife) bought him a sky dive. As she couldn't be here, we were minding the kids and recording the event.

So, what is it like - jumping out of a perfectly good plane?

 Here is the place to go ...

 ... and of course there are forms to fill in and sign.

And now his name is on the whiteboard - "James T14" because he is jumping out (in tandem with an instructor) at 14 000 feet.

Now we have quite a wait.

 There's a nice swing to play on,

 and Bethany enjoys playing in the old wingless plane.

There are lots of people waiting around, and getting ready.
Some people carry a video camera on their wrist - so there are videos of recent jumps to watch.

Some people practice their moves for when they sky dive.

There's an ambulance waiting around ...

... someone landed badly and injured an ankle.

People are very busy taking meticulous care of their parachutes.

James attends a training session.

This body shape is for when you are falling/flying.

This is for when you are landing (so you don't hurt your ankle).

Time to suit up!


Time to board the tiny plane.

It's going to be a full plane. Some of the other flyers are wearing wing-suits.

Here goes the plane along the runway - which is actually the road we all drove in on. Bethany (in pink, behind Peter) decides to try to run alongside the plane.

And they're up. We now have to wait quite a few minutes while they climb to 14 000 feet. It's really cloudy, and we can't see where they are. At one point we caught sight of the tiny white plane high above us in a patch of blue between the clouds.

Suddenly, the clouds are full of dots.

Is that him? How can we tell?

Oh, look! He's got his legs out like he was told to!

Down ...

All the way down!

 That's definitely a bit of a smile.

Time to deal with the equipment.

The little white dog is glad his master has once again returned safely. (This guy has to do several jumps a day.)

Carrying parachute and dog was a bit much, so James lends a hand. Still looking pleased!

Hi kids!

So ... was it fun?

Happy Birthday, James!