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Soccer Star

Check out this two-minute video from a recent scrimmage at our boy’s Saturday afternoon soccer club.

Okay, clearly, he is still not the most aggressive or talented soccer player. But he has fun, he’s getting exercise, he’s not bad on defense, and we do think he’s showing improvement in his overall skills! And check out near the end how he got pushed to the ground. Our boy just popped right back up, no whining or fussing or retaliation, and got back into the action. That’s our boy!

Bonus video: a little blurry and a little shaky.  Just Nyan running around the field.

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Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Part Two of Magnificent Mulu Caves

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. 

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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. 

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Magnificent Mulu Caves, Part One

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.

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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.

Here are some more pictures from the boat ride:

Lest we forget, the tour included a stop at a local riverside village, where the locals set up tables to sell weavings, wood carvings and the like. It was a pretty low-pressure place, unlike some other local shopping stops we’ve been taken to in other locales, and we ended up with some beadwork lizards for Nyan. But his favorite part of the stop — in fact his favorite part of the entire day, he told us later, better than the caves, the swimming, the boat — was this:

Yes, there were a few chickens wandering around the village, and Nyan spent most of his time watching them. Hey, whatever makes him happy.

The Canopy Walk

Another highlight of the national park (well, it was basically one highlight after another, to be honest) was the Canopy Walk. This is an attraction where you climb some stairs up into the rainforest canopy, about 100 feet above the ground — then you walk from tree to tree, down narrow wooden planks lined by wire mesh netting. It’s not for the faint of heart, I suppose, although it appeared to be very well maintained and safe, and we didn’t feel any sense of danger. Even Nyan was completely fine with it.

And why not? It’s a remarkable way to see the jungle from a whole new perspective, up near the top of the trees. From up there you can see some sky and nearby mountains, as well as the jungle streams and trails far below. The birds and bugs make a non-stop noise, and Daddy even glimpsed a flying squirrel or maybe a flying lizard (yes, they exist) soaring from one tree to another. 

Here’s Mommy on the canopy walk:

Some shots of Nyan:

And more photos, including Mommy and Nyan at ground level, just before ascending.

The Jungle and the Airport

We took a ton of photos on this trip. We’ve tried to edit them down, but there are still a lot to share. Here’s a selection of random scenery pictures from the jungle and nearby landscape: 

And here, some random pictures of Nyan and his folks in the jungle. Plus Freya and Noah — who were also visiting Mulu with their parents, on a three week trip from England. Lovely parents and lovely kids, and Nyan became fast friends with them. (Freya is 7 and Noah is 4.)

To get into the national park itself, you have to cross over the river from the parking area/drop-off point. The bridge is a springy wood-and-metal suspension bridge that has a hell of a bounce to it, as you can see here. Nyan took to calling it the bouncy-wouncy bridge. (It’s actually much bouncier in real life than it appears on the video…)

And finally, just for fun, the Mulu airport — the only way to get in and out of the national park area, other than a two-day boat ride, since there are no roads connected to the outside world. The airport is not exactly a bustling place – it gets maybe two flights a day on its busiest days. (Plus a couple shots of the view on approach to the airport)

More on this epic trip to Mulu in our next post. Stay tuned…

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A Couple of Days at the Beach

One gloriously warm and sunny recent Friday afternoon, rather than just going home after school, Daddy decided to take Nyan down to the nearby East Coast Park. He thought it would be a quick stroll to the water, check out the ships, an early dinner, then home.  But no: it ended up being a lovely, multi-hour expedition that kept our here up well past his bedtime.

Here’s our hero, scooting his way toward the park.

Once he got to the sand, he refused to leave. And who can blame him: look at how perfect the weather was!

So he played, he dug, he chased the waves.

He also did some writing in the sand. Including a loving homage to Y2L, the name of his class at school.

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We finally managed to get to a nearby restaurant for some food. While Daddy finished up his meal, Nyan wandered around, collecting coconuts.

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Then… it was back to the beach for some nighttime sand play.

It was quite late when we got home. But we had such a blast that we went back on Sunday evening for more play!

We are definitely spoiled and blessed to live so close to such a beautiful park, that’s for sure.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Nyan Thomas, Athlete

Well, maybe not so much. But he tries!

On a sweltering Friday morning in February, everyone at Nyan’s school headed over to a sports track near the National Stadium for the school’s annual Sports Day – a morning of running, throwing, jumping, and general sweating. Let’s see how our hero did.

The kids made sure to do plenty of stretching.

Then it was on to the competitions! Okay, it wasn’t a competition – just kids doing athletic things, like throwing things.

There was also a sprint:

And a longer run – maybe 100 meters? You can see Nyan pulling up the rear here, mostly (we think) because he’s more interested in looking around rather than in running. We still think he could be a decent runner, if he focuses, and in fact Daddy took him on a 1-kilometer run around the block the other day. So maybe it’ll become a habit.

There was jumping too – from a stand-still and from a running start. (Sorry – not sure what those are specifically called. It’s been many years since your humble blogger was in PE class.)

All in all, it was a hot, sweaty and fun morning.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A Friendly Soccer Match

In February, Nyan’s Saturday afternoon soccer club arranged a friendly match with another club. They had done this before, with a team that was several steps higher in terms of skill and experience (see here). This time, the organizers promised a friendly against a team that was more on the level of Nyan’s.

Were they right? Eh, no. The other team jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, although some shifting of players from one side to the other definitely staunched the bleeding, and the game ended up being almost competitive by the end. But whatever: the kids all had fun, which of course is what really counts.

Here’s a good example of the skills on display:

Nyan certainly got into the spirit; check out the celebrating when his team scored on a penalty kick.

Probably the most fun that Nyan, and many of the other kids, had was when the ball would roll off-field, down a slight slope and into some bushes. That’s because the kids had discovered a little tunnel under the bushes, so they could crawl away and into, presumably, some world of imagination. Check out the mad rush for the ball as it headed to the bush:

We can’t recall what the final score was – it’s possible that no one was keeping very good track – but, again, it didn’t really matter. The kids had a blast, got some exercise – and even showed some sportsmanship at the end.

We do think Nyan is showing some slight signs of improvement in his soccer, though these things are relative, and we’re not expecting him to play in the World Cup anytime soon. But, as we’ve said many times, the point is to get him some exercise, expose him to team sport, mix it up with other kids, and all that. So it’s all good.

We close with some group shots of the soccer warriors, celebrating their near-victory.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A Visit to the Istana

In the middle of heavily-developed central Singapore, there’s a big estate – just over 100 acres – of rolling hills, gardens, forests, and a grand old building called the Istana, which serves as the official residence and offices of Singapore’s president. Kind of like the White House, except Singapore’s president usually doesn’t actually live there. (Plus, the Singaporean president is much more of a ceremonial role than that of the U.S. president.) The Istana and its grounds are closed  to the public except on a tiny number of days each year.

One of the days it’s open is during the Chinese New Year holiday. Nyan had been learning about the Istana at school, so during the new year break in February, we paid the Istana a visit.

Here’s the building itself, and a guard outside the gates. We did get to tour the building, but no pictures allowed inside.

The grounds, though, are quite something,  swan-filled ponds, vast expanses of open field, and huge jungle plants.

We tried to take some family portrait selfies, which was a little difficult because the morning sunshine was quite bright.

We also played around with shadows in that bright light.

And we admired the decorative artillery gun in front of the main building.

We had been warned that if you don’t get to the Istana early, you have to stand in line for a long time to get in. We got there early and waltzed right in; a couple hours later, as we left, we saw that we were very glad to have been early.

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And finally, after our trek around the Istana grounds, we headed to a shopping mall next door for a late breakfast. This particular mall features some very long sloping escalators, which our boy wanted to go up and down, but only on his own. So off he went.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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