Well a few hectic days have passed and we have walked around a lot of Beijing. We have been to the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, Houhai Lake, The Fragrant Hills where we went up the highest Chair lift I have ever been on, a bit scary although the view from the top is well worth it! We had to wait so long in the queue for the return trip it was dark on the way down, another interesting experience!
Beijing taxis are anther interesting experience, I think they all consider themselves members of some precision driving team.
We have drunk tea in a tea house, eaten copious amounts of food, and refused to take a rickshaw about 20 times! Even Michael is learning to say "Buyong xie xie"!
Today we went to the Drum & Bell Towers - we climbed so many stairs to look at the enormous Bell - how in earth they managed to get it up there I cannot even begin to imagine! The Drum Tower seemed to have even more stairs but the drumming was well worth the climb.
The weather for the first 4 days was great fine warm days, clear blue skies. The last couple of days have been fine but the smog has come back and the sky is dull and grey, with some days the sun a strange orange ball.
So far Beijing has been amazing and we are looking forward to lots more interesting experiences.
Location: Beijing, China
Well after a very long flight we arrived in Beijing at 6.30 in the morning. This followed a looong layover at KL airport, where we wandered around for a couple of hours, found decent coffee in a french franchise coffee shop, checked out the Jungle
Walk then found we could check into the Airside hotel and have a shower, do some work and relax in a comfortable lounge chair!
Then at 12.30am we flew out and on o Beijing. Six hours of night flying, not the ideal, and very little sleep! Arriving in Beijing we were met by Simone and Tom and went back to their flat and then of=n to Breakfast at the German Bakery, followed by a recharging rest at their flat while Tom went off to work. Simone and I chatted for a few hours while MIchael snorred his way through a window seat nap (2hours)
Then on to our accommodation.
Our accommodation is in the ld part of the city, always our favoured part of a city to stay if possible.
It is in a the Hutong district and is a renovated Hutong courtyard house, situated down a side street and off an alleyway. It is so quiet and peaceful in here you would never believe you are in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.
The courtyard is lovely the rooms small and quaint and we eat breakfast on the roof overlooking the old hutong rooves.
Location: Christmas Island Indian Ocean, Australia
Xin Nian Kuai Le! & Kong He Fat Cai!
Happy new year of the Rabbit!
One of the best places to celebrate Chinese New Year must be Christmas Island! The work force has 2 working days off and coupled with the weekend this year we ended up with a 4 day long, long weekend.
This is usually full of eating and other festivities. Chinese friends invite you to their omes to celebrate - meaning lots of yummy food to eat. Lanterns are lit and set off into the sky. Homes and businesses are decorated with beautiful red chinese lanterns and other lucky symbols.
This year was a little different as it does not seem to want to stop raining so some of the festivities were a little wet but still a lot of fun. The other disappointing aspect to it was that the ship has not been able to get into port to unload, firstly due to poor weather and a large swell and then it had a problem with its engine that needed a part flown from Germany, so no powere meant it could not come in and again the weather prevented it docking, so we have not had a ship in for about 3 months.
There is lots of food on it - not sure about the condition of this! Christmas presents, as well as other christmas items (Christmas Trees etc) and ship mail, any thing too big or heavy to go by air, peoples belongings to make the move for work up here as well as on the dock peoples furniture and other belongings who have moved home to Perth and other places!
Oh well I think a lot of people will be having a second Christmas in February!!!
Life is never dull living on a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean!
Location: Perth - Christmas Island, Australia
Flying across the Country!
Well the flights home from Hobart to Melbourne and Melbourne to Perth went smoothly, spent a lovely few days in Carnegie with Jane, Hugh, Andrew and James. Jane and I did the obligatory shopping & coffee joined by Dawn fora morning. Managed to pick up a few bargains at the DFO and Chadstone and introduced Jane to the wonders and comforts of Colorado sandals!!!
Left Melbourne for Perth in a relaxed state and arrived without any fuss to the accommodation ready to catch my flight next day at a civilised time of 1.20pm.
So far so good until we got to Christmas Island where according to schedule we began our decent! this is where it starts to get interesting! we were almost down I could see the island, the trees the ground........ then up we go to circle again to try another attempt, this through the fog and rain. This time no visual just grey! and again up we went to circle for another 15 -20 minutes to once again try again, again green and hope but no not close enough and off we went again, to again circle. One more attempt but again grey and rain and no sight of land and this time back to Perth, via Learmonth for refueling and to land at Perth at midnight. Virgin did arrange accommodation and I fell into bed at about 1.30 am to be up and ready by 7.00 am to get back to the airport, and hopefully to Christmas Island.
After an uneventful flight we landed on Cocos Island and after 30 minutes back on the plane with fingers crossed onto C.I.
This time we did land easily, whoa what a long trip home .... I don't think I will be in a hurry to leave the island!
Location: Melbourne &Tasmania, Australia
Well the year ended in a bit of a rush for me on Christmas Island. First we had a very sad incident with asylum seekers crashing into the rocks (see earlier entry). Then I had to go to Melbourne for the funeral of my grandmother who at 97 succumbed to a combination of old age and the stroke that had immobilised her 2 weeks earlier. It was very sad but as she has had alzheimers for a number of years she was not the person we all knew and loved in recent years.
Even though Melbourne was a sad time it was also an opportunity to catch up with family I had not seen for many years. Not to mention a chance to hit the shops with Jane, who knows where ALL the bargains are.
Tasmania was my next destination as there were no seats on the plane to get back to Christmas Island before Christmas, so I went to Hobart/ Nubeena to spend Christmas with my parents and son. Which was nice. A great opportunity to sample the fantastic seasonal produce and catch up with friends. The strawberries, raspberries and cherries are absolutely the best in Australia, and for that matter anywhere. Needless to say I have indulged inplenty of these! I have also sampled a pomegranate - interesting eating, but quite delicious once you get the hang of eating it!
Down to my last week here on the Apple Isle and geting lots of things done to get my house rented out and Chris's house and garden sorted!
Then on Sunday off to Melbourne for a few days and then on to Christmas Island Via Perth for a night, then back to the island for a week of sorting my own house before back to work and study!
So looking forward to getting back I really miss the tropics! Even with all that rain!
It has also been hard without Michael here, I miss you!!!!
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Tomorrow off to Melbourne, family matters.
Fly to Perth then onto Sydney then another connecting flight to Melbourne, then off to Hobart.
Location: Christmas Island Indian Ocean, Australia
Lately the weather on Christmas Island has been very wet and windy, as it is the Swell Season. This means that the waves in and around the island become quite rough and large. Most of the time this is just a bit inconvenient, the planes may not be able to land and therefore people can't get off the island to go on holidays or go to work commitments, mail doesn't arrive and fresh fruit and veg doesn't come in. Inconvenient but not world shattering or life threatening! Today this weather had tragic consequences. It caused a mechanically disabled refugee boat to drift onto rocks and break up causing the deaths of 47 men, women and children seeking asylum in our country.
Local residents of Christmas Island living near the coast woke to screams of terror and rushed to the scene to witness a refugee boat being pushed towards the rocks at Rocky Point, a kilometre from the safety of Flying Fish Cove, and subsequently crashing onto the rocks with tragic results.
The many locals that rushed to the scene are to be admired and congratulated for their quick thinking and selfless actions in trying to help the helpless refugees in the water and on the rapidly disintegrating boat, throwing life jackets and anything that may have a chance at being a floatation device to them. The official operation was quickly put into place and did a fantastic job to save as many lives as it did.
This island is like living in paradise most of the time but unfortunately sometimes reality strikes and today was such a day. Many people performed amazingly and felt that they were only doing what needed to be done, what they were trained to do, what was right. We on the island are all touched by this tragedy and hope that it never happens again. Unfortunately as long as people are oppressed or live in war zones they will continue to seek asylum and take risks, let us hope that they are able to do this in safety in the future.
Location: Christmas Island, Australia
Well this last month has been a very busy time on the island.
5th November saw the Night of a Thousand Stars Charity Ball. This was a fantastic night a rare opportunity to really dress up on the island, as things are usually pretty casual up here. It was held on the old government house lawns, Tai Jin House and was a fantastic night, fabulous food, talented musicians and singing. The weather perfect, not a drop of rain and not too warm.
Reception for appreciation of Education Assistants - hosted by the Administrator, then on to a fundraising dinner for the Christmas Island Women's Association at lucky Ho's - 8 courses! We won one of the lucky door prizes too!
30 November was St Andrews Day and as we have Janice originally from Scotland teaching Home Ec. this year she organised a little Scots celebration we had a ceilidh - well a small one a bit of food - Haggis on a biscuit and Clootie Dumpling, and a ceilidh - well a small one, where we stripped the Willow, a very vigorous dance but a lot of fun! no Caber tossing though and of course lots of laughter!
Later that afternoon/evening it was god's birthday so off to South Point Temple to celebrate the birthday of Kang Tian Tai Di. With 4 Taoist mediums from Malaysia - lots of food, chanting, trances and the opportunity to receive a blessing from the god (through the medium whilst in a trance). This year saw an added 'highlight' the medium pierced his tongue with a sword while in a trance, no fire walking or piercing of other body parts this year, maybe next year!
4th December we attended a Malay wedding. See separate entry.
5th of December saw another cultural celebration, the Christmas Island Women's Association Christmas Party, again lots of food and of course some christmas carols.
It certainly can get very busy up here.
Radiah's wedding 4th December.
Wow what a beautiful bride she was. The day was incredibly hot.
Radiah is one of the girls at Michaels work and was married in a beautiful traditional wedding. Tradition is that everyone who you know or work with is invited to the wedding so it is always a very big affair. The Wedding reception was held at the Mosque padang (open area) and marquees were set out with tables and seating and food then the bridal party was heralded by drumming. They came down the road in a procession, the bride and groom escorted by helpers with huge umbrellas to keep off the severe heat of the sun. The party then proceeded to the padang where the bride proceeds to a dias and the groom is challenged and cannot move forward with out paying a fee, envelopes of money are handed over, accompanied with much laughter, one by one until the brides relatives are satisfied and then the groom is allowed to proceed. Then there is more drumming by the kompung troupe beating on small hand held drums, which look like tambourines (without the cymbals), and a special dance/ martial arts performance by men to the couple. This is called Silat and is a combination of dance and martial arts and animal moves. It is very energetic and symbolic.
I have included some photos here to give an idea of the beauty and tradition of the day.
life is certainly never dull here.
Location: Perth, Australia
Well my exam finished a little R'n R was in order so off we went to Perth the most western City in Australia. It was my first real visit to Perth as the last time I was in Western Australia - 1974 we drove around the city and kept heading north and on to Port Hedland!
This time we stayed for a week and had a really good look around. We meet Chris here as he came over for a friends wedding.
Perth is a really pretty city and especially at this time of year when the jacaranda trees are in full bloom. Perth is a really lovely city situated on the Swan River and it is very clean and literally sparkles under the clear blue skies.
We also went to Fremantle - a lovely part of the coast, and up as far as Yanchep. Another day we went south to Bunbury, taking our time and taking in the sights, at one point we stopped and had a look at some thrombolites, which are living rocks.
On another day we headed east into the 'interior' to the wheat belt towns of York one of the the oldest towns in Western Australia and then on to Northam. Very dry out this way but amazing flora!
Lots more to explore down there looks like we will have to plan a return trip!
Location: Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Arrived in KL late Friday afternoon so just did a bit of shopping and grabbed some sushi for dinner. Nice to have lots of choice of food.
Next day we jumped on the hop, hop off bus to look around the city, this is a good idea as it gives an idea off where everything is but it is really, really slow and tends to go around in circles alot! we did find a great shopping market that had some great handcrafts and clothing so that was good, some christmas shopping done!
Today we came up to the Cameron Highlands by taxi. It is quite a trip up it took about 3-4 hours on an extremely windy road. By the time we got here I wasn't feeling great but it was well worth it as the scenery is quite good. The Tea terraces are amazing it is hard to comprehend how they are able to farm the land on such steep gradients. The are is famous for its tea, fruit and veg and most importantly its STRAWBERRIES! They grow all year round and are nice and sweet. You can get them fresh, dried, in jam, sauces, fruit drinks dipped in chocolate just to mention a few. Lots and lots of strawberry kitch as well. Aaaah strawberry heaven!!!!!!
Well tomorrow we are off on a tour that will take us even higher in to the highlands, we are going on a jungle trek and to see an indigenous village and apparently they demonstrate blow pipes which Michael is keen to see.
Off to the night market tonight see what other remarkable strawberry items are for sale.
off to KL Malaysia today.