Thursday, December 14, 2017

Marvelous Malaysia

For my hard earned, fall break I went to exotic Malaysia. I desperately needed some time away from teaching adorable, but needy, first graders in Xiamen. Malaysia is a country I didn't really know anything about before moving to Asia over a year ago. For that reason alone it seemed exotic, and in turn very appealing. 

My travel habits have changed a bit over the last couple years. Before, I tended to only hit the capital city in a 'drive-by' sight seeing manner, reasoning that the capital city would showcased the best 'taste' of the nation's treasures. Now I have begun to regularly make it to 3 different locations within a country. In the case of Malaysia, I am very happy I did. I believe Malaysia has a lot to offer, more than even my 3 diverse locations could reveal. 

Kinda. Kuala Lumpur.

I am 100% sure I did not see all this urban locale offered but I only kinda liked the shopping and Islamic heavy culture I experienced. I did enjoy some famously yummy KL food and the view of the iconic towers, but I didn't fall in love with this big city.

Cameron Highland's Tea Fields

I was really looking forward to this venue which boasted expansive green fields. Need I say more? I typically prefer natural and useful beauty over glitzy buildings and glam shopping, but I went so far as to stay in a traditional bamboo hut that served local tribal cuisine. 

I also booked a day tour of the area. I unexpectedly got to see the world's largest flower (Pictured below). These flowers only live a few days so village scouts tell the tour guides where to find them. As you can imagine they do not always conveniently grow next to the man-made trails, so we slipped (and slided) our way uphill (though sometimes back down) to find this fella. It had rained the day before, leaving the landscape a muddy mess, but it made it very adventurous. 

I met a lot of really great people on the tour and at the 'native bamboo stay'. I didn't meet any Americans and I only saw 1 Chinese person during my time in this region though. The location may have been a bit remote for many American guests and I was told, "The Chinese like more luxury and places with shopping."

Langkawi. I'm Lovin' it.

I tried riding an electric scooter last year in Myanmar and though I was intimidated at first, it was quite thrilling. On this trip I wanted to do something new, too. I decided to ride a jet ski. In the ocean. I. Was. Terrified. Really scared. I made one of our guides ride with me while I eked along, and then had him take over as we fell way behind the others. But I kept at it and by the end I was flying right along with the other riders. There was only 2 guides and 2 'guests' on the tour this day anyhow. I will be scared again if I ride in the ocean in the future, but I did like it. I don't think a boat trip could have revealed as much island ocean beauty as the jet ski tour did.

I also took a boat tour of a mangrove and went to a beautiful bridge that presented some breathtaking views. I met up with some colleagues and friends who had booked the same place on the same dates, too. This was my favorite of the three places I visited and I hope to see more of Langkawi another time. (All pictured below.)

Yes, Malaysia has much more to bestow than Kuala Lumpur and I don't think even 3 locations were enough to showcase its riches. Malaysia really is marvelous.     

Friday, September 29, 2017

I am Mountain Love: Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain

I am Mountain Lover.

I changed my name. My Chinese name was Xiangnon (it sounds similar to Shannon in Chinese and it means fragrant), but I changed it to Shanai. Someone helped me figure out my initial name shortly after I arrived to China and it is a nice name. Unfortunately, I can never remember the right way to say it and I wanted to pick a new one by myself. I picked Shan Ai because of the meaning. Shan means mountain and Ai means love. I love mountains; I am Mountain Lover. It doesn't sound as much like a typical Chinese name as the first (but wait a minute I know Chinese people with some very interesting 'English' names, many of which I have never heard of before), but I like that I can remember it, and I can even write it.


The first 4 letters are the same as my given name, in pinyon, too SHAN. Pinyon is when the Chinese characters are put into latin letters. The only down side is that it sounds a bit like Shanghai.

And did I say I love mountains!

Within the last year I have been to several famous mountains in China; Zhangjiajie, Guilin, Wuyishan, and now Huangshan. And besides these famous ones I regularly try to climb the smaller ones scattered all over my city.

English Names

I only know the English name of most people I meet. Almost all of my students have English names they have been given by their parents to use at school, too. So not only is speaking English new to them, their name is often brand new to them when they enter my classroom. I'm not sure if it is done to make it easier for us foreigners or because they hate how we mispronounce their Chinese names. I have been, until now only called by my English name as well. But this week I met with a new language exchange partner and I want her to call me Shanai.

Weekend Getaway

I hopped on a high speed train, after work on Friday, and spent two nights in Kou Tang village located at the foot of Huangshan, the 'Yellow mountain'. The mountain is named after someone with the family name Huang(yellow). It is famously in many Chinese paintings.

Saturday Morning

It was a 10-15 minute walk from my hostel to the official busses that take all visitors to the mountain entrances. I planned to walk up the Eastern stairs and down the Western, but at the last moment decided to take the cable car up and back. The Eastern stairs were estimated to take me 2-3 hours going up and the Western 4-5 hours. I am happy I opted for the pricey, but time saving, cable cars because I still ended up walking about 7 miles on and around the top of the mountain, without the added climb and descent. Though it was forecasted to rain, it didn't and I had ideal weather. It would be fun to take the stairs up and back in the future, but I think I'd need to stay on the mountain overnight to enjoy any of the actual mountain views if I did that simply for lack of time, not to mention depletion of energy. There are several housing options on the mountain, but they seem to be overly expensive or overly basic. As with most places I visit in China, I'd like to go back, so maybe I will hike up the stairs next time. What I did though, was perfect for this trip!

When I disembarked from the train in Huangshan city, it was 25 degrees fahrenheit cooler than, my city, Xiamen- it was 70 degrees, which was a relief. The weather during my time on the mountain was about the same and the air was clean which was so refreshing.

And those clouds.


Chinese Tourists.

The picture I take.

The ones people take of me. Umm... Thanks, but where are the mountains?

The highest peak is 6000 feet. I'm not sure if I went there. It's big, so I didn't see everything. But, I think I went to the top.

Can't Take the Charm

Sunday morning I took a Didi, which is China's version of Uber, to Hongcun, the village where they filmed, 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', in 2000.

There are several ancient traditional villages in the area. They are suppose to be especially gorgeous in late fall. The village I chose was nearly an hour from my hostel and was really crowded by the time I arrived. There were students of art everywhere, busy at work. The crowds ruined most picture opportunities but they couldn't take away the ancient city's charm.

I liked this village's narrow alleys and charm and I liked the views from the village I stayed in, but I am Mountain LOVE.

Meanwhile in Xiamen

Weekly get-togethers at my house have resumed.

A minute of my beautifully random life.

Xiamen's nightly fountain show.

I have figured out how to have food delivered to my door. Fun and dangerous!

A minute of my beautifully busy classroom.