Sunday, April 24, 2011

Exploring Tioman Island in Malaysia

Before I start this post, I have to apologize for leaving my blog on the back burner for a week. After ten weeks, classes have finally ended. Finals week was definitely stressful, 2 projects, 4 finals, and a 5000 word paper definitely kept me busy. After the long week, I hopped on a plane and headed for Singapore and Malaysia!

We arrived at the Singapore Airport around midnight and in true "poor college kid" fashion, we slept there for a few hours before getting on the first bus to Malaysia that morning. The bus dropped us over the border where we then took a taxi to the Mersing ferry port. While on the bus, we met a retired couple from New Zealand who was also headed for Tioman Island and were able to split the cab with them. The cab ride was air conditioned, but it was no match for the Malaysian sun's heat. I am pretty sure the temperature in the cab was well into the 100's for the entire 2 hour duration of the drive. After the cab we took a ferry to the island. The island itself was beautiful. It consists of seven small villages and traveling between them can only be done by boat. The local people on Tioman island were so welcoming.
During finals week, I had to write a paper for my Southeast Asia and the World Political Economy class and I chose to compare the level of globalization in Singapore and Malaysia. I wrote about cultural globalization, specifically looking at the languages spoken in the region. I was surprised at how many people spoke English in Malaysia, not only speaking it, but speaking it really well. The official language in Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia, but everyone we spoke with on the island was able to speak and understand English. I think the reason why I was so surprised at how well people spoke English is because after visiting Beijing and Shanghai, I thought I would have been able to communicate with more people in mainland China and after seeing the lack of English there in two international cities, I wasn't too hopeful for a small island off the coast of Malaysia.

Not only was it great to talk with the locals, it was interesting to watch some of their daily routines on the island. Every night, when the sun would start to go down some of the Malay men would go to the local court and play this game that looked like a cross between hackie sack and volleyball. Some of the guys were good enough to do bicycle kicks with the ball. Check out the video I recorded of them one night.

My favorite part of the being on Tioman Island was going snorkeling everyday. One day we went on a round island boat trip where we went to five different snorkeling locations around the island. I saw a barracuda for the first time, a sea turtle, squid, and lots of tropical fish. When we were looking into places to stay on the island, we wanted to be close to good snorkeling and we were. On the days we snorkeled off the shore, we were still able to see tons of tropical fish.

After a great week of rest and relaxation, it feels good to be back in Hong Kong. Getting off the plane, it hit me that I really only have a month left before I head back home. I will start my independent research this week on repurchase intentions for mobile phones in the Hong Kong market, which should be pretty interesting.

I am going to make a Hong Kong Bucket List for my last few weeks and don't worry I will be sure to share my last few adventures here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hiking Dragon's Back

Today I hiked Dragon's Back, my second hike this week! The hike is in Shek-O, which is on the south side of Hong Kong island. An MTR and bus ride got me to the head of the trail. It could not have been a better day for a hike, a beautiful warm sunny day in Hong Kong. The hike is 4.5 kilometers and took a few hours.

The trail was flat and shady at first but soon opened up to some rolling mountains. Looking out to either side you can see the ocean, including a few beaches I have explored before. I was noticing how different this hike was from any other I have been on and I think it started with the different plant-life. In the states, my family usually hikes in New England, in Vermont where there are different kinds of tall trees. On this hike, as soon as we were at the top of the mountains, it was flat with low green plants, leaving a clear view in all directions. It really felt incredible to be surrounded by blue skies and the warm sun. I actually saw a few para-sailers who I can only assume must have taken off from the mountain top.

After hiking for a few hours, the trail ended and I was at the road. My options were to take a bus to Shek-O beach, take a bus back into the city, or follow a set of stairs down the hillside with a sign that said Tei Wan village and beach. Of course I picked the last option and headed down a million stairs. At the bottom, Clint and I found what makes me stand by my previous blog statement. If something says restaurant, you just have to trust that it is. We ate noodles from what I am almost positive was someone's house and kitchen. This "village" only had a about six houses right on the ocean, but regardless, the food and people were great.

An afternoon cat nap on the beach and I was ready to head back up the stairs and back to Hong Hum. Dragon's Back hike equals success!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A day off from school

Today was the Ching Ming Festival in Hong Kong. This festival is also known as Ancestors day or Tomb Sweeping day. This public holiday is meant for people to go outside, enjoy the greenery of springtime while tending to their ancestors graves.

This day ALSO means, public holiday, no school!

On this beautiful Tuesday holiday, why not enjoy the sunshine and spend the day outside? That's exactly what I did. Clint and I explored some of Hong Kong's waterfalls. To get to the waterfalls we took the MTR to Tai Po Market and then a short taxi cab ride to Ng Tung Chai village in the New Territories. We got out of the taxi and were greeted by two puppies and some locals. After scratching our heads and taking in the new surroundings, we were pointed in the right direction. A concrete path lead us past a few houses were we could see people farming and of course, more local pups made sure to say hello.

The rolling concrete path lasted only so long before we were climbing stone steps toward the waterfalls. Clint and I decided we wanted to see all four waterfalls, making a big loop through the trails. The path between the third and fourth waterfall has technically closed, and has been for some time because of a landslide a while ago. A few rocks and bypassed signs later we were on this closed part of the path.

On this path we saw some of the biggest tree leaves I have ever seen, seriously. They were huge!

After seeing all four waterfalls we started our decent. It was getting closer to sunset and we started to walk through a bamboo forest, joking that if a tiger were to pop out the bushes, it would be here. After this conversation, it sure didn't help that Clint kicked a stone into the bushes, scaring me to the point where I screamed and jumped.

We made it down the mountain and followed a sign that said beer and icebergs, even though we weren't quite sure what "icebergs" meant. The little store where we grabbed a few cokes and a water was closer to someone's house then a store, in fact I definitely pet the family cat while sucking down my coke. After living in Hong Kong for a few months, I have determined that regardless of looks, if something says its a "store" or "restaurant" you just have to trust that it is.

Clint and I headed back to the MTR where we quickly made a friend. The thing I didn't mention about the Ng Tung Chai village and the new territories in general is that there are far less foreigners than on the island or where I go to school. Having said this, Clint and I were the only english speaking people, that is until we met Jimmy at the MTR. Jimmy was eating dinner in the same restaurant as us and helped us order off an all Chinese menu. Not only did he help us order, but Jimmy spent a great deal of his meal standing at our table practicing his English. He was quite the character, commenting excessively on Clinton's beard.

Overall, it could not have been a better day off from school.