In mid-December we hopped a Singapore Airlines jet for the Maldives, the low-lying island chain southwest of India. We’d long been fascinated by the place, after seeing pictures of coral atolls and sandy beaches, so we headed to a resort for a week or so, a little bit before Christmas.
It was amazing and we can’t wait to return!
We stayed at a resort called Kurumba, which took up the whole of a small island a short speedboat ride away from the island where the airport was built/ Check out these pictures of the resort and the surrounding beaches and water.
We had a little cabana right on the beach.
The resort offered diving, yoga, swimming… typical beach resort amenities. There wasn’t really all that much to do overall — which was exactly the point. Daddy went diving a lot, but otherwise we dd a lot of hanging out, reading, relaxing.
Nyan on the gorgeous beach that surrounded the entire island:
The lagoon around the beach were very shallow and warm. Sometimes a baby shark would swim by:
Don’t worry, the sharks weren’t dangerous. So Nyan spent a lot of time in the water too.
We took a lot of family pictures too:
Mostly we walked around the resort but one day we indulged Nyan’s desire to get a ride on the golf cart.
Yeah, Nyan spent most of the time being his normal self. Reading, sleeping, just being Nyan.
Including being a goofball from time to time:
Fianlly, some shots from the traveling experience. On the plane, at the airport…
And on the speedboat on the ride to the airport our last morning. Ahh. Lovely.
In April, we nipped over to the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu, on Borneo, for a long weekend at a modest resort. We had no plans other than relax and rest, and that’s pretty much what we did.
The resort was right on the water, with a coastal boardwalk, swimming pools, landscaping, and views of Mount Kinabalu — one of the tallest mountains in Borneo and Malaysia — looming off in the distance.
Here’s our silly little family, doing silly things.
As we said, we didn’t do a whole lot on this trip, although one night we did go downtown to check out the night market. Chock full of fruits, vegetables, meats (raw and cooked) and other goodies for sale. Where they had active grills, it was quite smokey, which made for some nice atmospheric effects.
KK is well known for having great sunsets, and it certainly lived up to the hype. We even saw the mythical green flash! Turns it it’s not mythical after all; it exists! (Didn’t catch it on film, however.)
Chinese New Year, a.k.a. Lunar New Year, is a Big Deal in Asia, with pretty much everything shut down — like Christmas Day in the US or UK. 2019’s CNY ended up being a four-day public holiday weekend, so we took full advantage by relaxing and doing various other things.
Like an overnight to Malaysia! Mommy’s Aunt Jessica recently moved there, so she and Nyan crossed the border to visit Jessica and cousin Grace. (Daddy stayed behind, as he had work due for clients in the US who don’t recognize CNY).
There was also an afternoon at the beach with Aiden, the 9-year-old son of Brian, one of Mommy’s old school friends who is from Singapore but living in Shanghai — like many, many people, he and his family traveled home for the holiday.
Nyan’s school got into the fun too, with performances and all the kids dressing up in CNY gear. Here’s Nyan and his good friend Arav in their new year finery:
Here are all the kids goofing around before their on-stage performance:
And here they are making their way into the auditorium:
Believe it or not, we don’t have any video of the performance — we were too far away, and it was too shaky and whatnot. Oh well. It was still a great capstone to a great Chinese New Year!
In December, a bit before Christmas, we flew up to Thailand’s Krabi province for a little beach R&R. (It was a pre-Christmas holiday to avoid the crowds and inflated prices over the actual holiday week.) Our destination was the island of Koh Lanta, about a two hour drive, and a car ferryride, away from the airport. It was a lovely time. Let’s take a look!
Here are some random shots from the car ferry. It was only about a 20 minute sail.
Our resort was built on a bluff overlooking the Andaman Sea, with its own little rocky beach down a flight of stairs from the hilltop. We had a room facing the swimming pool, and it was all quite nice.
There was a big pond by the lobby filled with fish, which you could feed. Which we did.
The resort also featured a “reggae bar” (a bit odd in Southeast Asia, but hey) tucked into a cliff, where you could get decent food and drinks and watch the sun go down. The seats were basically cushions on the floor of a private room; they also had a few seating areas up a steep staircase in a treehouse.
Koh Lanta has lots and lots of gorgeous beaches, which we spent a lot of time on.
Who loves long walks on the beach? Nyan does.
Nyan also spent a lot of time at the resort’s rocky beach, which featured lots of amazing rock formations. He also met a little boy from Malaysia who was staying at the resort, and they became fast friends.
They built contraptions out of rocks and driftwood:
And dug in the sand, as kids will do.
Nyan also spent some time swimming in the calm, shallow waters of the little cove.
One day, Daddy took a kayak out for a blissful spin in the sea.
Mommy found a great open-air yoga studio on the island and visited several times. When we learned they also offered a kid’s yoga class, we signed Nyan up. His little beach friend joined as well. Nyan had a blast and did great!
He also practiced some yoga moves at lunch one day.
While Mommy and Daddy were doing yoga, Daddy went scuba diving. And what diving! Cuttlefish, turtles, pufferfish, and more. The dive boat had a professional photographer taking shots, so here are a whole bunch.
Another day, we hired a driver to take us around the island, including a visit to the little fishing village on the far side of the island. It was mostly tourist-free and had a few little shops on the nicely-maintained main drag.
It was, in general, a lovely little island (even if, like so many places in Southeast Asia and the world, it had a pretty bad litter problem in parts).
We leave you with a few random shots of our goofy little family, enjoying their holiday.
In early August, to celebrate both Mommy’s birthday and the imminent end of a fun-filled summer, we took a three-night trip to Telunas, the low-key beach resort in Indonesia that we went to last August as well (see here). We absolutely loved it last year and Mommy said she wanted to return for her birthday again this year. So off we went!
It’s an easy place to get to — a one-hour ferry from Singapore to Batam, Indonesia, followed by an hour or so on a narrow, low-riding speedboat operated by the resort. It was a little bumpy but fun. Here’s Nyan on the ride:
It’s a casual resort in a secluded cove, all of it built on stilts over the water, with a long walkway connecting it to the shore. Some photos:
Here’s an evening time-lapse from our room’s deck:
And another time-lapse from the beach, showing the little crabs doing their little crab thing:
Telunas is not a place you go for non-stop excitement and action. It’s a place to unwind, chill, and rest. There’s plenty to do though: read, play games, swim in the ocean, and eat. Here’s Nyan doing the Telunas thing:
Nyan and Mommy on the beach:
We spent a lot of time in the water, with our waterproof camera. The water was a little murky (a function of the time of year: prevailing winds in August are out of the south, and the cove faces south, so it gets steady winds that bring steady churn-y waves right into the cove. Apparently the water is much more clear at other times of the year). But who cares about the murk: we had a blast. Check it out:
Telunas is a family friendly place, so there were lots of kids around, including Warren, a half-white, half-Asian American boy who was a bit younger than Nyan. They got along great. Nyan (and Mommy) also fell in love with PJ, a months-old baby who they pretty much wouldn’t put down.
We did the rope course again, just like we did last year. Still fun!
And one day, the staff demonstrated some traditional Indonesian dance moves:
At night, the staff would start a big bonfire down on the beach, and Nyan and the other kids would gleefully roast marshmallows.
Nyan also showed off his own traditional dance moves:
The resort has this platform about 30 feet above the sea. At high tide, you can leap from it. It’s a bit daunting but also pretty exhilarating, as Daddy found out both last year and this:
All in all, it was a super relaxing, enjoyable and successful trip. I bet we’ll be back again.
We considered lots of places for our mid-summer family vacation. New Zealand was an option until we remembered July is the dead of winter down there. Bhutan would be amazing, and remains on our short list, but it’s breathtakingly expensive to go there, so we’ll save up and try to get there maybe next year.
In the end, Mommy said she would be happy to go someplace where Daddy could dive a lot and she and Nyan could chillax on the sand and in the pool. So we wound up picking a dive resort on a tiny island in the Celebes Sea, off the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi. It’s called Siladen, and I don’t think we could have chosen a better place.
Getting there was pretty easy, all things considered: a flight to the city of Manado, Indonesia; a 45-minute ride to the coast; and an hour’s ride on a small boat to Siladen island. Some photos from our journeys:
Siladen is a small resort, right on the shore, with a pool, spa, a handful of little chalets, and a nice stretch of beach with some pretty epic views.
The area around the island — which we got to see on multiple boat tours and dive trips — wasn’t bad either.
We had a lot of fun just hanging out at the resort — lounging in a hammock or beach chair; digging in the sand; eating really, really good food; swimming in the pool or the shallow sea; reading.
Also just being silly while sitting at the resort’s little bar area as a tropical downpour hissed in the background:
Did we mention the resort had a pool table? Nyan spent a good amount of time trying to play. One rainy evening, Mommy decided to play too.
It wasn’t all just fun and games though. There was serious business to be done: diving!
Daddy got a new GoPro underwater camera before this trip and spent a good amount of time underwater learning how to use it. Some of his shots weren’t too bad:
This Nemo-esque fish wasn’t too happy that Daddy was encroaching on his anemone.
So Daddy was out on (and under) the water every single day of the trip. One day, Mommy and Nyan decided to join in. They would stay topside and snorkel while Daddy went 60 feet down.
We had a short ride to the dive/snorkel site — another thing to love about this resort: it’s in the midst of a marine park, and there are dozens of amazing dive sites within about a 10 or 15 minute boat trip. Here’s the fam, enjoying the ride.
And here’s Nyan getting his snorkeling gear on. He used a full-face mask rather than a traditional mask-and-snorkel.
In the end, though, the snorkeling wasn’t quite a success. Mommy enjoyed it, but young Nyan was a little freaked out by the waves (it was a little choppy and windy that day), and by being so far from shore, and by not being able to see any coral when he looked down — just sea grass. So he pulled the plug and hung out on the boat while Mommy snorkeled and Daddy dove.
But he still enjoyed himself, he says. And it wound up being a fun family day out on the water.
It was a pretty epic trip all-around, we’d say. Definitely a place we’d recommend, and a place we may very well return one day.
After our visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, we popped over to Macau. The former colony of Portugal is now part of China, but has its own identity, including old colonial buildings and a growing number of super-mega-casinos. We figured we should check it out at least once, though we had pretty low expectations, to be honest.
But Macau surprised us very nicely! The casinos were as gaudy and overdone and gross as you’d expect, but the rest of the town was charming, the food was great, and it was just a very pleasant, if quick, trip. Let’s take a look.
To get there, we took a ferry from our hotel near Disneyland to downtown Hong Kong, then walked over to another ferry terminal and boarded a high-speed boat bound for Macau, about an hour away.
We had about 36 hours in Macau total, which we filled by walking around a lot and just playing tourist. Here we are in various poses and positions (click to enlarge):
As mentioned above, we liked Macau quite a bit, and much more than we expected. We didn’t take any pictures of the casino resorts, but we took quite a few elsewhere.
One of the most popular attractions is the old cathedral, which burned down a few centuries ago, somehow leaving just the facade standing. Well worth a visit. (It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, too.)
We also checked out an old church, which definitely had us feeling like we were in Europe.
Our hotel featured a very nice pool, which we didn’t use, and a kids’ playroom, which we did. We had trouble getting Nyan out of there, in fact. (There was also a big desk in the lobby that he had fun with.)
Macau has an excellent museum housed in an old fort, on a hilltop just above the cathedral. You can walk around the top of the fort and check out the views and the cannons, and you can walk around inside and gawk at the historical displays and play with a computer program that lets you design an old sailing ship for trade with the outside world (Macau was a big trading port back in the day). We did all of these things.
We also took a cable car up to the top of another hill.
Up there were more great views, hiking trails, and random pieces of exercise equipment, which we had to try out.
It was a whirlwind tour of Macau, but we left satisfied and wanting more, and we decided we would happily return to Macau for more exploration. Will we actually do so, given all the other places around Southeast Asia to visit? Hard to say. But if we do, we’ll be quite happy.
We celebrated the end of a successful school year with a family trip to Hong Kong and nearby Macau. We didn’t spend much time in Hong Kong proper this time around. Instead, we were at… Disneyland!
Here’s the intrepid traveler on his way out at Changi Airport in Singapore, the day after school let out for the summer.
We had a nice little hotel in Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, close to both the Hong Kong airport and Disneyland itself. Various views from the room:
Enough of all that… let’s go to Disneyland!
One of Nyan’s favorite bits of Disneyland was the Sword in the Stone, which we returned to several times during the day:
The Merry-Go-Round was pretty nice too. Here’s Nyan and Mommy getting ready
and off they go!
Another favorite: the Dumbo ride
Some photos from various rides:
Other big hits were Winnie the Pooh and It’s a Small World. We were frankly less than impressed with Hyperspace Mountain (too jarring) and the Iron Man 4D ride (for Daddy at least, it elicited more carsickness than excitement). Daddy went on another roller coaster on his own, and it was good:
Another big hit, also in the Wild West section, was this huge gold nugget:
Nyan being Nyan, there was plenty of goofing around.
It was a fun, sweaty, exhausting day. After dinner and an early bedtime, we were up the next day for a ferry ride to downtown Hong Kong.
We were there to catch a high-speed ferry over to Macau… more on that in our next post!
Second in a series documenting our family vacation to Gunung Mulu National Park, deep in the rainforest of Malaysian Borneo.
Deer Cave and the Bats
The park is perhaps best known for Deer Cave and Lang Cave. To get to these two caves, which are very close to each other, you take a pleasant hour-long hike through the jungle. It’s well worth it, as they are remarkable. They were formed over thousands (millions?) of years by rivers and streams coursing through the limestone landscape. As such, the caves tend to be long (hundreds of kilometers in some cases) and really, really tall inside.
Here are some shots from inside (and just outside of) the caves.
And here are our heroes, inside the caves, just outside the caves, and on the hike to the caves.
The real draw of these particular caves happens at dusk each evening. The caves are home to millions — literally millions — of bats. At sunset each night, they emerge from the caves to go hunting for their dinners for the night. They come out in batches by the thousands, soaring in swirling, fractal-looking formations as they try to avoid any pattern that could make it easy for the hawks and other birds that are waiting outside the cave, hoping to catch their own dinner.
There’s a nice clearing just outside of Deer Cave where the park has set up benches for people to sit and watch. The bats emerge anytime between 4pm and 6pm, so there’s a fair bit of waiting, but it’s fine as it’s beautiful and bucolic — feels like something out of Jurassic Park.
Here’s Nyan waiting, along with some pictures of the scenery.
Finally, after an hour or more of waiting, the bats started to come out. We managed to grab a bit of video, though it’s hard to really capture the experience:
Pretty cool, eh?
The Night Walk
Also cool was the night-time stroll we took through the jungle, with a guide who pointed out all the wildlife we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. There was a Huntsman spider the size of your fist. Lots of stick bugs. Lots of birds sleeping (they sleep at the very end of very thin branches. That way, if a snake tries to slither out to catch it napping, the branch will wobble and the bird will wake up and fly off to safety). Oh yes, a few snakes, including a big one (maybe five feet long) coiling its way around a tree trunk. Lots of frogs too. Not a lot of photos, because nighttime, but here are a few.
Speaking of snakes, our guide found a baby snake — blondehead was the species, I think — and offered it to Nyan to touch. And touch it he did, the brave little guy.
Here are some frogs – a couple on the back of a leaf, and one that our guide picked up and held for a minute. The frog was none too happy about that.
Here’s that spider I mentioned:
And the stick bug. Yes, it’s a bug that… looks like a stick.
Our intrepid night walker, decked out in his night-vision goggles.
Finally, the same intrepid night walker on the ride back to the resort, looking happily exhausted.
Deep in the Malaysian Rainforest
As mentioned, we took a *lot* of photographs on this trip. We hate to have them go to waste, so let’s take a look at some of them.
Random shots from the jungle:
Random shots of Nyan and his peeps:
The Marriott Mulu Resort
Our days (and some evenings) on this trip were spent getting dirty and sweaty. Our evenings were spent at the very nice Marriott resort just outside the national park. No roughing it here!
There was a nice pool at the resort, where we spent some time in between jungle hikes. That’s Nyan with his new friend Freya (sister to Noah, whom you will see later on) in the pool.
There was also lots of reading going on, even while walking:
Some shots from around the resort, including Nyan inspecting giant jungle leaves, Nyan playing around on the gym’s treadmill, and Noah joining us for lunch one day, and helping us realize what it’d be like if Nyan had a younger brother.
Our room had a very comfy bed, which Nyan appreciated.
Finally, nothing much going on in this video, visually. But we took this video early one morning from our balcony, to capture the sounds as the jungle awakens.
Nice and peaceful in its way.
Goofy people Being Goofy
Let’s close out our chronicle of our trip to Mulu with a bit of silliness. Remember those silly pictures from the Miri airport? Here are some more from Mulu.
As part of our spring break travels, we dove deep into the Borneo rainforest and came face to face with cave fish, snakes, trees that rival California’s redwoods in height, fist-sized spiders, and millions and millions of bats. It was spectacular.
Our destination was Malaysia’s Gunung Mulu National Park, a.k.a. Mulu Caves. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site: hiking trails and campsites around some of the deepest caves in the world. Just what the doctor ordered for a nice break from city life.
And what a break it was. Here’s a detailed look, in no particular order, at just some of what we got up to. There was a lot — so much, in fact, that we’ll break this into two blog posts.
Clearwater and Wind Caves
The park was extremely well-managed, and offered numerous guided tours to various caves and other natural wonders. (In fact, you have to take a guided tour at the park — the better to control visitors and their impact on the rainforest.) One of our favorites was a trip up a jungle river to a pair of caves, Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave. We boarded a narrow wooden boat for the ride upstream.
We took lots of pictures on the boat ride.
To get to the caves themselves, we had to hike along some trails and walkways that had been carved into the limestone cliffs. Wind Cave was long and narrow but had plenty of larger chambers, complete with countless stalactites, stalagmites and other cave accoutrement. Clearwater Cave was huge, with the main chamber probably a couple hundred feet tall. There was a river running through it, with fish, and a few places where the ceiling had opened up, allowing light in and creating a great place for moss and other plants to grow.
Here are some pictures of the interiors. Hard to get really good shots, unfortunately, since it’s a cave and, by definition, rather dark:
And the three of us in the caves and on the trails. The little boy in a few of the pictures is Noah; more on him later.
As awesome as the caves were, probably our favorite bit was the refreshing dip in the jungle stream we got to take afterwards. The water was cold — this little swimming hole was fed by the same river we’d seen inside the cave — which was just what we needed after the long, sweaty hikes.