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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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Hanging Out in Miri, Malaysia

Nyan had a couple weeks off from school, so in early April we headed over to Malaysian Borneo for some R&R. Our ultimate goal was a national park deep in the jungle — more on that soon — but we started with a couple days in the coastal town of Miri.

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That’s the Miri waterfront. Before we got there, though, here we are, leaving Singapore’s Changi Airport on our way out:

Miri itself is pleasant enough, although there’s not much exciting going on there — some okay diving off shore, which Daddy took advantage of, plus some shopping malls and pedestrian-unfriendly streets, and that’s about it — but we found a decent hotel to stay at. It had a nice infinity pool on the seventh floor, so we spent a lot of time there. Nyan enjoyed showing off his jumping skills.

One evening, while Mommy was getting a massage in the hotel spa, Daddy and Nyan went for a stroll and ended up having dinner under the streetlights at a dusty, random roadside place. We had steamed fish, and it was very, very good. 

Oh yeah, we also found a giant plant on the same walk. 

We had a propeller plane flight out to our next destination, and our ride to the airport ended up being a pickup truck. This pleased Nyan very much.

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Here’s our plane, and a fun sign at the Miri Airport.

Finally, this is how we kill time at an airport. Daddy got a new phone shortly before this trip, and while waiting for our flight, he realized that his camera has all sorts of silly and dumb cartoon effects. So of course he took a bunch of pictures with those silly and dumb cartoon effects. Enjoy! 

 

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The Friendly Skies

It’s not easy to get from Singapore to Iowa and back again. In fact it took six different airports, six planes (four jumbojets and a pair of smaller jets), and some 65 hours of travel all told. Whew. But Nyan has been traveling around the globe since he was five months old, so no big deal.

Here we are at the very start of the trip, waiting for our taxi to Change Airport and then saying farewell to Mommy (who had to stay behind)

First leg: SIN to NRT on Japan Airlines.

A short layover at Narita, featuring delicious Japanese food:

Then it was a long (almost six hours) layover at Dallas-Fort Worth. We spent about two of those hours in line at immigration. Welcome home!

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Then it was food, riding the airtrain from terminal to terminal, and waiting.

Oh, and dancing too:

It was nearly midnight when we arrived in Iowa, but someone was happy to see Grandma and Grandpa. Not to mention happy to be able to move around for a change.

It was a fun two weeks, but all good things must end, and before long we were back at the Cedar Rapids airport, saying goodbye.

We almost didn’t make it: check out the snow falling on the morning of our flight.

Some snowy views from the planes at both Cedar Rapids and O’Hare. We made it out, though.

We had a 13-hour flight to Beijing, China on our way back, but we were lucky enough to be able to use miles to upgrade to business class. Nyan was ecstatic. Daddy wasn’t unhappy either.

Finally, our last layover, Beijing, where we faced many more slow-moving lines, but finally made it to our gate for our last flight home to sunny, humid Singapore.

We’re not yet sure where our young traveler will head next. Stay tuned to these pages to find out!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Another Trip to Chicago

We punctuated our trip to Iowa with a quick roadtrip in to Chicago to see some dear friends. Most notably, Pearl – Nyan’s first canine love.

Of course, whatever continent he’s on, you can always find Nyan with his nose in a book.

Though he did manage to squeeze in some ping-pong.

And he hung out with Pearl in front of a Christmas tree:

And helped Todd and Linda decorate their tree:

Todd and Linda happen to be renovating their house, so we got to take a tour of the very unfinished new master bedroom, and poke around the construction site. Nyan made himself useful by moving handfuls of gravel from one pile to another.

A fun trip, a short trip. But a long drive – which found Nyan doing what he does best on a long drive: dozing.

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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Nyan Returns to Hong Kong

Long-time readers will know that Nyan visited Hong Kong way back in the spring of 2015 (you can reminisce here). Mommy and Daddy have each been back a couple times each for work, but Nyan hadn’t. So when Mommy had to visit HK in late November, she took Nyan and Phwa Phwa along for a long weekend (while Daddy stayed behind in Singapore and worked). It was a successful trip by all accounts. Let’s take a look!

They did a fair amount of walking around and sightseeing, visiting museums, and the like. Check it out:

They also found a shopping mall, near to their hotel, that had a huge Lego Christmas display set up. Plus a bakery with a Stormtrooper cake. Think our boy was happy?

They rode the subway, they rode the ferry across the harbor:

Hong Kong is also known for a tram that goes up and down the steep Victoria Peak, the mountain behind the city. They rode that, too.

They rode it up:

They rode it down:

And in between, they checked out the spectacular views on a beautiful day:

Here’s a quick look at our hero, relaxing in the hotel room:

They also spent an afternoon at the botanic gardens, checking out the birds and the bamboo (among other things)

And finally, we leave you with a few random shots from around Hong Kong. It’s a really vibrant – not as clean as Singapore, but just as safe, and arguably more exciting – and I’m quite sure we’ll be back.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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A Visit to Telunas Beach Resort

Telunas is a laid-back beach resort on a small Indonesian island. There’s not a lot to do there except swim, eat, hike a bit, and relax. That was just what we were looking for as a way to unwind before Nyan started his new school, and to celebrate Mommy’s birthday. We are quite pleased to report the place exceeded our expectations in every way.  Here is a long report on our trip.

It’s pretty close to Singapore, which meant no air travel – just boats. We started with a half-hour ferry ride to the island of Batam, just across the channel from Singapore. Nice views of the Singapore skyline even from Indonesia:

Then we transferred to a small, low-slung traditional Indonesian fishing boat that the resort sent to pick us up. The ride was about 45 minutes through pretty calm waters, passing by untouched islands and the occasional fishing village, with most buildings on stilts above the water.

The resort is also built on stilts, jutting out over the water. The main building was the eating hall, and each individual cabin was connected by wooden pathways high above the water, eventually leading to a long stretch of beach. It was deliberately rustic and low-key, and it was great.

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Here’s the resort:

And our room, a nice-sized place with a queen bed, bunk beds and a little balcony overlooking the sea and the island.

Fun on the Beach

The beach was long and clean, very wide at low tide and pretty narrow at high tide. The whole place was thick with little crabs who would dig holes in the sand and leave little balls of sand everywhere. Great for drawing your name in, actually. We obviously spent the bulk of our time on the beach – swimming, lazing, walking, playing with the other kids at the resort.

Rope Course

The blonde, curly-haired girl you see in some of those beach pictures was Anastasia, a.k.a. Squish. She and Nyan became fast friends, starting with some bonding at the resort’s rope course.

As you can see, it was a clearing on a hill, deep in the jungle, where they had installed a few rope bridges for kids (and adults!) to test their mettle. Nyan was a little nervous but he did a great job!

More Fun in the Water

The resort had some non-motorized water sports equipment to borrow, so one afternoon, Daddy and another parent staying at the resort brought one out into the (pretty shallow) water and threw a bunch of kids on it. A blast was had by all.

The resort also had a couple of platforms for the brave-hearted to jump from and into the water. One was maybe 10 feet, the other more like 30. Both were too high for Nyan, but not for Daddy!

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The resort also offered rudimentary fishing — they’d loan you a plastic spindle with a lot of fishing line on it; you’d put some raw chicken on a hook at the end of the line and lower it down from the platforms. We didn’t catch anything but it was a nice relaxing time.

Relaxing 

Speaking of relaxing, that’s ultimately what we did a lot of at Telunas. Reading, lounging, drawing, exploring, being silly. Good times.

The Night

Every night they had a big bonfire down on the beach. Kids loved it – especially when the marshmallows came out!

One evening we did a special pizza dinner down on the beach, where we all assembled our own pizzas and then had them bake them in a wood-fired oven. And, since it was Mommy’s birthday week, we asked if they could do something special. They sure could!

We were also there during a full moon. Amazing.

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And you know ho the full moon brings out the crazy and/or goofy? Yeah. This:

Time to Go

Sadly, of course, all good things must end. So after a few nights, we had to board the fishing boat that took us back to the ferry that took us home. But we’re already making plans to return to Telunas.

It’s fair to say the trip was an unalloyed success. In case there was any doubt, Nyan started his new school a couple days later. One of the first things the children did was to draw “what I did on my summer vacation” pictures. Here’s what Nyan came up with:

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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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