Sunday, October 19, 2014

Children of Mabul

Mabul island has a lot of children. A lot of them. Also, cats. In the village, the children, and grown-ups, roam around the village like time has stopped there since many years ago. The village and its rustic charm.

Right outside our homestay, a Mabul boy swam to us with his prizes from the sea and showed me to ask if we would be interested to buy some. Although we just smiled and told him that we were not buying, he politely thanked us and swam away.

Mabul Kid

Children in the village seems to love patronising this little shop that sell snacks. Even after the sky turned dark and no more snacks available to buy, some children still loitered at this little blue shop.

Choosing treats

Shopping boy


The children are lovely, they are not really camera-shy, and in fact they are not a bit evasive as me to the camera lens at all.

Little Girl of Mabul

Lovely children

As these three girls are just outside our homestay, I got to see them one more time on the last day before we left.

Sweet local girl

Looking at the scene below, it hits the nostalgic part of me. I miss seeing babies being cradled. I guess they no longer do this nowadays in our town. Cats, people, taking afternoon nap in the hot days.

Cradling in early afternoon

Cats, everywhere on the island

It's like smiles everywhere. Sometimes when you are not exposed to too much, you retain the purity and kindness. Also, feel contented easily.


Grocery Shop Toddler

Portrait of a Mabul Family

Interesting sighting. The children are actually gathering to watch a movie together.

TV gathering

Only in Mabul.

Houses on sea

It's a big world

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our little Gardening works

A soft, well lit corner. Plants, reading are our hobbies.

Recently, we kind of very into these little gardening thing. Glad that we have this little corner where the lighting is soft during the daytime, to place all the little greeneries and take pictures of them, as well as food.

We started with kit sourced from Taobao, like the moss, stones etc from the comfort on our bed, though I wanted to have as much as DIY spirit into the project as possible. I am still not familiar with plants, and don't know what are the moss and plants growing outside our house are suitable for indoor.

I think there is a very easy trick in setting up the base layers. I hope the plants can survive:

Bottom layer: small stones for water to set in if too much water
Second layer: sphagnum moss or peat moss, wet the moss before setting in, I guess charcoal works the same.
Third layer: soil, still learning what's the different soil will do to the plants

Miniature garden

Hanging garden:
Glass container and hanger sourced from Taobao, mosses and miniature toy figures as well. The unknown pretty little hanging plants are transplanted from a bowl of artistic plants which YN found in Kuching. I hope to find out the name of the plant.

Haworthia plant and an airplant

Wind and Air:
Both Haworthia (Zebra desert plant) and airplant are sourced from Taobao as well.

Lesson learnt, air plants can be procured from Taobao but not zebra plant. The tips start to turn yellow. I hope they do survive. Will go out to the local nursery to source for more plants!

Update (2015):
The Zebra plant actually starts to grow bigger in the office, but stay about the same at home. The airplants still thriving, and there is finally a Terrarium with red nerve plant!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Short getaway to Mabul, Semporna

Back in last April, we had an impromptu trip to Semporna region of Sabah, despite a kidnap that just happened in March. We could not resist the super cheap air fare, and bought it. A girl gave up on the trip, but the rest of us persisted. Applause to XT, Alfred, Pan, Gerry and me!


We did not try to hide from our boss that we were going on the same trip. Me and my colleagues / teammates:


Before we reached the town of Semporna, the palm oil plantation from the airport to the town broke my imagination of a Sabah with pristine forest. Deeply saddened to see how Sabah forest has been damaged to this extent. Few years ago, when Marcus drove us all to the Tip of Borneo from Kota Kinabalu, I do not recall seeing any palm oil tree. Two or three hours of journey, and it was all palm oil plantation.

Semporna is a town, that resembles a very typical laid-back Malaysian town. Signs of tourism boom could be seen, with hotels and hostels springing up near the seaside area, and tourists walking in their snorkelling gear or swim suit on the streets. There was nothing much in this town, after dinner we just spent our evening playing San Guo Sha card game that Gerry brought along.

We stayed in Summer Friends homestay, which owned by a Chinese, Mr Yong, and his family of Bajau-Chinese descendants, who helped to arrange for airport transport, boat transfer to Mabul island and the homestay. It's a very homely homestay that is supported by stilts with the Celebes sea just below the floor / wooden planks. The sea just below the homestay was crystal clear too, with a tint of turquoise but I could see that the water was not really clean. How nice if we could let our city mindset that cares too much about cleanliness out of our way and jump into the sea and play like all the children of the Mabul village did.


Mr Yong's son, Xiao Yang, with his friendly charm, who hung out with us and guided us to the snorkel trips.



On the rooftop of Summer Friends Homestay, under the starry sky, we just could not help ourselves to play with all these long exposure photos. On the rooftop with all the stars above us, the air was cool, and we laid down on the wooden planks there and talked to each other. It was one of those quality moments that staying in a luxurious resort doesn't give you.


The Kapalai resort snorkel was actually the best among all the snorkels I had on the island.

Photo 20-4-14 10 28 49 am

Photo 20-4-14 10 26 52 am

Mr Yong's wife, a local Bajau lady was like a kind mother too. While I fainted there, possibly due to heatstroke, Xiao Yang and aunty applied oil and let me drink the rehydration salt solution.


Just outside the homestay, it's Mabul village that is interesting to walk about. The island is very very small, which possibly only took less than an hour to circle the island on a casual pace. Walking in the village was like having an experience of time travelling to older time. The village retained so much Kampung feel. The locals were very friendly too, smiling at us as our eyes met.




Now I know Gerry loves cats.


We wandered into a school, with view like this just beside the school. Do the school children jump into the sea when they feel like it or they risk being scolded by teachers? Feel like I should have brought along a towel so that I can just swim for a little bit here!


Before the trip, I started brain-washing XT and Pan that cold shower is good for health, I think I failed to have their mind changed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tiger Leaping Gorge 虎跳峡

Tiger Leap Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge, a wonder of Mother Earth. It was told in legend that at one point of the gorge, it was so narrow that a tiger was spotted leaping over to the other side of the gorge, hence the name.

Jinsha river flows in the gorge, fast and furious. It is easy to understand that falling into the river means death.

The Gorge

We came to Tiger Leaping Gorge after Lijiang, which is only about 60km away. Lucky for us, we did not come here only to stop at the tourist vantage point but we actually planned a night's stay.

We first checked into our home stay, a lovely hut over-looking the gorges called 山白脸客栈 (Chateau de Woodie Guesthouse). One step to live up to the ideal of backpacking, we chose the RMB60 per bed dormitory. There were no other people in this off-season, we basically had the whole building to ourselves but at night it sure was a little creepy. Turning off lights means total darkness and starry sky!

Wasting not a minute more, we started the hike at the trail right beside our home stay. Hiking trails in Tiger Leaping Gorge proves to be very popular among the Westerners, with the local villagers even able to speak English while not necessary Mandarin!

The trail is called Middle Leaping Tiger, or 中虎跳. It seemed easy enough at first, with path laid out nicely by the local villagers. The sun was high and we even felt hot in this supposedly breezy place.

Beginning of Hike


Hike view

Soon the path turned slightly difficult and path becomes narrower.

Into grassy hills

As we moved, our bodies heated up and we all felt warm and welcome the cooling breeze.

Shangri-La Travelmates

We came to the Tiger Leaping Stone after just a short hike, which is called 一线天 that means a straight line to heaven. There, we met a group of Guangdong hikers, that we joined dinner with later.


When it was time to go back, as it was getting late, we came to this ladder which is called 天梯 or sky ladder. It was very long but our quickest way to get to the top, so we decided to try.


As the sun set, the surrounding temperature dropped and we felt cold. Gilbert caught a cold here most likely, as he started feeling unwell after got back to the hostel. We continued to climb and climb as the sky turned magenta and we finally reached the 天梯客栈 or Sky Ladder Home Stay, who built the freakishly long ladder. The group of Guangdong hikers were already resting there.

Dusk of Tiger Leaping Gorge

We were all starving and cold, and the friendly hikers invited us into the home stay for dinner and tea. They were even sharing the farm chicken they ordered. We sat together and exchanged talks with each other, indulged in the wonderful dinner. Finally, we had to bid farewell to each other as we had to go back to our own home stay which is some distance away. We got our home stay host worried as we were away for a long time.


One thing I disliked about this place or the government of China, we were charged two times of toll by local villagers in this short stretch of trail. I understand that the villagers are actually the people that maintain this scenic place, and they were complaining that the government only imposed the national park entrance fee but did not do anything. The entrance fee itself was not cheap at all which felt like a rip-off of visitors, but that is the sad truth in everywhere of China.

Though, I wish we could have stayed here for one additional day as there are still so much to explore in this valley.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shangri-La County

Grassland, with Riders

What's your definition of Shangri-La? Does a grassland in the highland with horses grazing the grass, surrounded by rolling mountains, suits what Shangri-La should look like?

We came to this county designated by Chinese state government of Yunnan as Shangri-La, after a few hours from Tiger Leap Gorge. It was however, not a place I imagined it to be. Gilbert was down with AMS, feeling uncomfortable upon getting down from the van that we took. Instead of only a night here, we stayed an additional day just to let him get better in this altitude.

After checking into 红石头客栈 (Gesang Garden Inn), we took him to the hospital, and the rest of our first day here was slow and relax. In the afternoon, we played mahjong with the inn staff, Xiao He, who was very friendly and cooked medicine 红景天 that supposed to relieve AMS. The inn is furnished in Tibetan style, which I like very much.

We settled into a Yak steamboat shop down the street after the recommendation of Xiao He. The steamboat was a god-send. Somehow, the lady boss sat beside us to chat with us while she was not so busy, as we also chat with a nice Chinese lady that was on her own here. We did not go out to explore the streets but indulge ourselves in warmth beside the stove accompanied by the scents of Yak and spices. It was a nice encounter, as we chatted into late of the night and even took a picture together with the lady boss and the nice lady. We even went to her boutique hotel for sightseeing.

The next morning, as usual, I woke up as dawn light stole into the slits of the window sill. The two of them were still asleep, and so I picked up my X100s and walked outside to explore the sleepy morning of Shangri-La. There were frosts on the plant, and on the soil. The late autumn happened earlier at such high altitude.

Dawn, Shangri La

The Golden Belltower

Black pigs roaming freely, munching on rubbish and basically anything they see.

Black Pigs

Then, as I climbed the hill, I met a man stretching while facing the city. The view was so... awesome.

Morning Exercise

I chanced upon a local temple which I brought them both to visit later. I worried that they might be looking for me, so I went back but only to find them waking up in the late morning.

After breakfast, Gilbert was still not well, so we decided to stay in the town for sight-seeing and that was when I suggested them to visit the temple. It was a very small temple, but I was glad there were no tourists here. The slope that leads to the temple from the city had Yaks grazing the grass, which we had some fun taking picture with as they were so tame!


Yaks and the Civilisation beyond

After lunch, we decided to rent bicycles to cycle to the nearby plains. Initially we were worried that Gilbert was unable to go far but he was like back to life the moment he put his feet on the pedals! We cycled to the outside the city, stumbled upon some random plains and decided to go into the plains. That was where we met an artist there taking inspiration from the scenery around us.

The light and shadow play of the nature was amazing, creating beautiful lights around the clouds, mountains and on the plains.

Rolling Shadow


Riders of the Grassland

Red Grass

Tibetan Grassland

Yellow Field

The clouds move so fast that in a few minutes time, shadow cast all over the plains. Then, I was surprised to encounter horses roaming on their own here. White horse too! It was like a utopia, when the fast moving clouds let out rays of light that shone on the horse. I got excited and ran to the horse while leaving my bicycle behind.


Oblivious to my existence, they continued to graze while I snapped happily. I even got to pet the white horse before it galloped away.

Shangri-La Horses

White Horse

As sun set behind the mountain range, we made our own way back to the city for dinner, taking detour. We slept after viewing the starry sky from the roof top.