Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas from Malaysia!

It's Christmas Eve on Pangkor and there's a torrential tropical downpour going on to the soundtrack of Kenny G. Bleurgh!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Kuala Lumpur Bird Park

We decided to head to KL Bird Park on our first full day in Malaysia. Entrance was around 48RM. It was really impressive - a huge jungle like park with a giant canopy over the top. Most of the birds just fly around freely, although some of them obviously have to be kept in their own enclosures. If you ever go (which you should),  try the madras fish curry in the restaurant.  Cheap and delicious!



This peacock was giving the other bird a right display.






I stand like this when I'm reading magazines in WH Smiths.


Jenny made some fearsome friends.

I hope my eyebrows look that good when I'm older. He looks a bit like Norman Lamont.

These monkeys kept stealing all the food from one of the bird cages. They're aggressive little buggers, but it's fascinating watching them darting around along those thin wires.



Cassowary. Apparently the most dangerous bird in the world. Check out it's claws. When I saw this fella I started to wonder if I was actually strolling around Jurassic Park.


I love the way these flamingos take a nap. I wish I could just bend my neck and rest my head on my back.

KL Train Station
Kuala Lumpur train station.

Kuala Lumpur - First Impressions

Jenny and I have been in Kuala Lumpur for a day or two now and... it's HOT!!!

It had been snowing as we left Gwangju on Saturday, so this weather is in stark contrast. I'm sweating like a rapist in a nunnery. However the aircon is more powerful that anything I've ever experienced. While riding the LRT yesterday I almost froze my feet off. Flip flops and Malaysian aircon do not go together well.
We've been staying at Nicola's apartment (see above). It's palacial. It's located near Bangsar Village, an ex-pat shopping area. Jenny and I have been loving the supermarkets. We can buy all sorts of stuff here that we couldn't dream of getting in Seoul: CHEESE, a plethora of different teas, marmite, all the British condiments you could imagine, CURRY...

This is the view from Nicola's spare room where Jenny and I are crashing...

and this is the view at night (different direction)

Greg is also out here on a work trip. His company have work offices in Kuala Lumpur. He's been put in a 5 star hotel, but the best bit is that it is in the middle of a strange resort/theme park. He has a water park out the back! When we visited him the first thing we saw when we pulled up in a taxi to was this ridiculously large Lions Head in front of a giant pyramid. The place is covered in more Christmas decorations than I have ever seen. I didn't realise a Muslim country would go so nuts for Christmas.


Friday, 9 December 2011

Hot Winter Holidays!

It's been snowing like crazy today. The cold is harsh! I'm looking forward to my winter vacation in MALAYSIA!!! 30 degrees Celsius!! I'd better pack those swimming trunks.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Geumseong Sanseong (금성산성 - Mountain Fortress) & Damyang (담양)

The weather forecast was sunshine! I'd been holding out all weekend for this day trip only to be greeted by overcast and hazy skies. Sod's law! The conditions may not have been perfect, but I was still pretty excited to be cycling out  to Geumsong Sanseong (금성산성 - Mountain Fortress). It's got fantastic views across the valleys and on a clear day I'm sure you can see as far as Mudeungsan back in Gwangju.

geumseong map
Daejeon myeon - Damyang - Geumsong Sanseong (66km round trip)
The route we took started from near Chonnam University back gate. From here you simply head north out of the city along Uchi-Ro. After 8km you will cross the Yeongsan River and turn right immediately after the bridge. From here you continue for another 4km to a village called Daejeon-Myeon. Once here you simply head east towards Damyang.. You could take highway 13, if you like that sort of thing, but I would recommend just hitting up one of the many country roads that run nearby.

As I mentioned it was a pretty bleak and overcast day, so I thought I would treat you to a photo from the route on a prettier day...
This is me, modelling the route on a more glorious October day. 

Now back to the cold grey reality of Dec 4th.


This photo was taken from another day, but along the same route. It's a small man made pond which mirrors the mountains behind. You often see people fishing at this spot. When I first passed this spot I promptly hit the brakes and swerved off the road causing a massive pile up of bicycles that included my friend Jonny and his wife Young. I learned a lesson about cycling that day!

Metasequoia Avenue

Once you get to Damyang head north-east on road 24. Alongside this road you will find Metasequoia Avenue. It's a nice pedestrianised road lined with these trees. It would be a perfect spot if it wasn't next to a highway (out of shot to the left). It's been in some dramas/movies and is apparently considered to be one of the most beautiful roads in Korea. If that's the case, I think they should start planting a few more trees on the side of the roads. There's an idea!

geumseong06 geumseong07
We stumbled across this gathering of scarecrows. I haven't a clue what that was all about.

Quite a lot of the roads around Damyang are tree-lined. There's tons of traffic on these roads though, especially at the weekend, so it's a welcome relief to get back on the farm roads. Geumseong Sanseong is quite well sign posted after Damyang, so it's pretty easy to find.


Sean, go and stand by that sign! (Just 2 km to go)


The last stretch before Geumseong Sanseong is a hideously steep hill.

The 35th kilometre brings wrinkles to my face.

Feel the burn!!!


The hill was a beast. We left our bikes in the car park where an old man said he would keep an eye on them. He didn't lie. I completely forgot to lock our bikes and they didn't disappear. Cheers fella!

You can buy Damyang Bamboo Makkoli whilst your there. Buy it. It's good stuff :)

Sean, go and stand by that tree!

This is the entrance to the fortress. It's approximately a 45 minute hike up from the car park. From here we thought we would hike the entire fortress, but apparently it takes about 5 hours to hike in its entirety. I imagine that's an exaggeration, but it is some awkward hiking. Trying to cycle from Gwangju and hike the whole fortress is not a realistic/enjoyable ambition. We definitely plan on returning for purely hiking mission. There are a few pensions in the vicinity so you could stay overnight and fit the hike in the next day.






It was a tougher climb than we'd anticipated.








Damyang Bamboom Makkoli
The aforementioned Damyang Bamboo Makkoli



On the route back we decided to cross this stream (it's a lot deeper in the summer) so we could take the cycle path back.

I hate this cycle path. It's boring and it's made of rubber. RUBBER!!! Why would you make a cycle path out of rubber? We didn't stay on this for long.

Once you get back to Damyang you can take road 29 all the way back to Gwangju, or better still take the farm roads alongside it.

The farm fields in Korea are lined with little roads like this. Almost every highway has a small farm road running nearby, so you can easily navigate your way around free from heavy traffic.



We found these turkeys in a farm on the way back home. I've never seen a turkey on a menu in Korea let alone in the flesh. They were huge!

If you're in Gwangju or the Jeollanam-Do area you should definitely check out Geumseong Sanseong. I will certainly be heading back, but preferably on a much nicer day.