The Malaysia trip, part 4

The Malaysia trip, part 4
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Cameron Highlands was a bit of a snoozer, but George Town was a real treat. Several writers have described George Town as one of the top places to retire, and I can see why. Great food, lots of things to see and do, great people, interesting culture. I was reluctant to leave at the end of my week there. It’s only a five-hour trip by coach from Brinchang to Butterworth. The coach leaves from Tanah Rata, just south of Brinchang, and stops in Brinchang to pick up passengers on the way to Ipoh terminal and finally Butterworth. As I discovered, the head office of the coach line, Unititi, is at the Brinchang Hotel, but the main bus terminal for the Cameron Highlands is in Tanah Rata. Good to remember for the next time I come. I could have stayed on the bus all the way onto Penang Island, but my Airbnb hosts told me the ferry from Butterworth to George Town would put me closer to their home. Plus, it’s a lot more picturesque. Here’s some history about George Town. Like many other cities with similar names, it’s named after King George III (the fellow we ...

The Malaysia trip, mapped

The Malaysia trip, mapped
Rather than clutter up the last post with a map, I’ll put the map up here. As you can see, most of my travel has been in peninsular Malaysia. Eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, reaches the end of its monsoon season in February, usually. 1. Kuala Lumpur/Batu Caves 2. Brinchang, Cameron Highlands 3. George Town, Penang 4. Singapore 5. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah 6. Kuala Lumpur For the geographically challenged, Brunei is an independent sultanate wedged into the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, and Indonesia controls most of the southern half of Borneo. The Philippines are to the northeast of Borneo, and easily accessible by boat or plane from Sabah (where I am now). Thailand lies to the north of peninsular Malaysia. So, you could land in Bangkok, Thailand, take the train to Kuala Lumpur, or even Singapore. Fly to Jakarta, Indonesia, then hop over to Pontianak on Borneo (and stand on the equator!), then take the bus to Kuching in Sarawak, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, and finish up in the Philippines. Six countries in all. Yes, I did consider it. But rather than rack up “countries visited” points, I opted for leisurely exploring one — well, two, counting Singapore.

The Malaysia trip, part 3

The Malaysia trip, part 3
KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, MALAYSIA — The rough itinerary I worked out before coming to Malaysia was (1) Kuala Lumpur (2) Cameron Highlands (3) Penang (4) Singapore (5) ???? (6) Kuala Lumpur. Right now, I’m in segment (5), so there’s some time delay at work here. I ended up staying six days in the Cameron Highlands, specifically in a small town called Brinchang (or Berincang, which is the Malay name/spelling). Two of those were basically downtime, partly because of rain and partly because I needed to give my feet a rest. All that walking in Kuala Lumpur had raised blisters on my left foot. [Note to self: Next time, bring the shoes you know are comfortable and don’t chafe anywhere. And wear two pairs of socks. OK?] The Cameron Highlands are, well, higher in altitude than the coastal regions of Malaysia, and naturally cooler. Temperatures in KL were in the 90s (°F) while I was there, but Brinchang temperatures were 20 degrees cooler, even during the day. Great weather for walking or hiking, and the area around Brinchang and Tanah Rata offers plenty of hiking trails. For reasons of space and weight, I did not bring my hiking boots, which in ...

The Malaysia trip, part 2

The Malaysia trip, part 2
GEORGE TOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA — So, I’ve been here three weeks so far. What have I been doing? Walking a lot and riding buses, taking lots of pictures, eating interesting food. Soaking in all these new places and experiences. And trying to relax. No hurries, no worries. So far, I have spent about a week in Kuala Lumpur, about five days in Cameron Highlands, and tomorrow I will finish a week in George Town, Penang. Next, I will spent three days in Singapore for Chinese New Year — which should be fun — and then a week in Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo. Then back to KL, and China. The most interesting thing I’ve done by far is witness the Thaipusam festival (see photo at right) at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 24. It’s a religious festival, but a joyful one. So the feeling was very light hearted. I like Kuala Lumpur in general, too. But I grew up near New York City, so if you’re not a city person, KL may leave you feeling exhausted. There are tons of things to see and do (and eat!), but it’s also crowded, noisy and not especially hospitable ...

Ten years! How did that happen?

GEORGE TOWN, PENANG, MALAYSIA — I’ve been blogging here for ten years! I just realized it today, while talking to a fellow blogger who is staying at the same airbnb location as I. My first post was Jan. 18, 2006. And here it is, Feb. 3, 2016! I missed the anniversary. Better late than never. That is all. Have a good one!

The Malaysia trip, part 1

The Malaysia trip, part 1
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — With a five-week holiday break coming up, I decided in November not to dilly-dally like I did last year, and make a plan for an extended trip to someplace warm. I settled on Malaysia for the most emotional of reasons — a friend posted photos of Malaysian palm trees and blue seas on WeChat. I haven’t quite made it to the blue seas yet — that comes next week — but there have been plenty of palm trees, and so far, mostly sunshine so far. It’s going well. Last year, I postponed buying air tickets to Indonesia until prices were too high, so this time I booked early. From Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur was only $182 roundtrip on AirAsia, including trip insurance and a $20 checked baggage fee. That was well within my budget, but I had to juggle departure and arrival times to avoid the price hikes around Chinese New Year (Feb. 7 and 8 this year). Air fares fell off dramatically for a long stay of four weeks. I bit the bullet, and booked the tickets. This will be the longest vacation trip I’ve ever taken, and one of the first adjustments I’ve ...

What I miss about the USA when I’m in China 2

What I miss about the USA when I'm in China
DENVER, COLORADO — People in China often ask me if I miss the USA and my family. Of course, I say yes, but despite that I manage to cope. Usually, I’m too busy to feel homesick, and the Internet helps to eliminate any such feelings. But I have to admit, there are some specific American things that I realized on this junket home that I really appreciate. Here they are in no special order, and I hope I don’t offend any of my Chinese readers by my bluntness. In the USA, I can drink the tap water without worrying about being sick later. The restrooms are generally clean and sanitary — or at least don’t stink — and there is usually toilet paper, sinks, soap and some way to dry your hands. Also, there are stalls with doors. Every restaurant has a restroom. Restaurants always provide napkins. People know how to stand in line and wait their turn. I can eat raw vegetables and fruit and not worry about getting sick later. I can access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, The New York Times and a host of other websites and services without any problem. The streets and sidewalks are generally ...

The top destinations for expats; China is #38

InterNations is an association for expatriates around the world, regardless of where they’re from. Each year, InterNations surveys its members’ opinions of their countries of residence, and publishes the results. Here’s the map of the top expat destinations, taking into account all factors. China is number 38. It ranks low on education opportunities for children and ease of settling in a new community, largely because of language and cultural barriers, but high on cost of living and ease of finding a job.. Clicking on either map will take you the InterNations.org website for more information.

My winter holiday journey around southern China

My winter holiday journey around southern China
BEIHAI, GUANGXI PROVINCE — It’s winter holiday time again, and time for me to venture out in the wider world. My holiday travels this time were not as far ranging as I had hoped or planned, but still I’ve had a good two weeks of travel. Here’s my itinerary in brief: Jishou – Changsha – Hengyang (all in Hunan), Guangzhou – Shenzhen (in Guangdong), Hong Kong, Beihai – Nanning (in Guangxi), then back to Hunan, for 17 days in all. The map above shows where I’ve been. My original plan was to go someplace really exotic, like Hanoi or Jakarta, but a friend asked me to travel with her for a week at the end of January. Also, my tutorial student wanted more lessons, so rather than leaving right after exams ended Jan. 6, I stayed in Jishou till the 24th. Meanwhile, I made up my mind not to exceed my budget, as I have managed to do the last three journeys. This time, I was determined to have at least a month’s pay in the bank when I returned. This decision required me to return to Jishou once my funds dipped that low. So, after scoping out my options ...

Another term put to bed

JISHOU, HUNAN — Another term is past. I put in three intensive days to plow through marking my Listening Comprehension exams, and turned in my grade on Tuesday. I am a free man! This term was relatively easy. I have four sections each of Oral English and Listening Comprehension, totaling about 160 students. I designed the listening exams to be quick to mark, so plowing through them while I watched TV or listened to music wasn’t so bad. Likewise, the spoken English final assessments were already done by the time I gave the listening exams; all I needed to do was calculate their grades in Excel. So, what now? I have nearly eight weeks of vacation stretching out in front of me. For now, I’m just going to take it easy at home, as I still have some tutorials to meet. Then I’ll go travel somewhere. Haven’t made up my mind where yet. Meanwhile, I’ve been tweaking things here at Wheat-dogg’s World, and republishing the blogs I wrote about coming to China and being in China, as The China Chronicles. They’re indexed in the Pages section your right. Each chapter covers a year. I had hoped to find a WordPress ...

Just in case you want to tip me

Just in case you want to tip me
JISHOU, HUNAN — At the bottom of each post, just above the AddThis sharing bar, is a tiny Coinbase tip button. Click it to send me a Bitcoin tip. Also, I can also accept tips on my Twitter feed with @Tippercoin, or you can scan this QR code with your smartphone wallet to send Bitcoin to me. The other ways to donate to Wheat-dogg’s World are still in place, by way of PayPal, Bitcoin or Litecoin. Follow the link or take a gander in the right-hand column. And, if you shop on Amazon through this website, I get a little money, too. The Google ads have netted me $15 so far this year. Personally, I hate websites that run obtrusive ads that foul up pageload times and layouts, so I’ve deliberately avoided using any other click-through campaigns other than Google Ads. No “one weird trick” ads here. I promise. All donations will be cheerfully accepted. Thanks!

Awww! Baby tiger!

Awww! Baby tiger!
Yahoo.com A tiger cub is caressed inside an incubator at a wildlife park in Kunming, Yunnan province, November 24, 2014. The newly born baby tiger was sent into the incubator due to poor health, according to the park management. (REUTERS/Wong Campion)
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