Thankfully Ava and I have a week off work to "recover" from our holiday away. We're both still sniffling, itching, limping, peeling and trying to unblock ears and noses! With my school and her shop closed for Spring Festival, we have had no option but to take things easy; lie-ins, DVDs, internet, meals with friends and, today, some crafts. Ava decided she needed a sock storage system and so commandeered an orange box and decorated it [see photo]. She's now making another one for her doll's clothes!! Well, it keeps her occupied.
On arrival back from hols, I found water running down the wall of our spare room. It must be a leak from the flat above, but they are away for Spring Festival and uncontactable. As you can see, the various work information I've stuck up over the months is now all soggy. But unreplaceable is the B/W print [top right] which was a one-off and is now destroyed.
Still awfully stiff from sunburn and with nose-bleeds (Ava) and ringing eardrums (me) from the scuba diving yesterday, we decided to take it a little easier today and visited Cebu's very own "Crocolandia".
This place apparently started as a sanctuary for abused crocs, then added some snakes, an iguana, a few parrots and... well, before they knew it they became a small zoo with a very odd selection of animals. We seemed to be the only visitors there and it made for a pleasant hour's wander.
Snorkelling is great fun, but scuba diving is something else. You're not just looking down on the fish, you are moving amongst them or looking up at them. It's also more intense (you only have about 30 minutes of air) and more dangerous (you need a guide and you can't simply stand up if any equipment malfunctions!). It was actually 15 years ago here in Cebu that I qualified as an "Advanced Open Water Diver", so it was nice to return and dive here again.
Ava had only done one shallow dive in China before, but after a quick briefing, she bravely sank down 15m (50ft) with me and our two dive guides. We saw lots of sealife - starfish, seahorses, puffer fish, clown fish, parrot fish, green beltfish, lionfish and a majestic shoal of metre-long silver dolphin-fish swimming slowly in circles above us. We'd both like to do more diving in future holidays.
A mixed day today. Jiajia and I enjoyed another day of hopping between islands and snorkelling - if you hold a little bread under the water all manner of fish swim up quite boldly to have a bite to eat. One large fish took this too literally however, and bit the end of my finger. Blood everywhere!
However, on our return to the hotel, Jiajia and I realised we had been under the strong sun a little bit too long. We both had bad sunburn and struggled to walk to our favourite restaurant! But worse was to come. No sooner had we tucked into a fried vegetable dish than we both started to feel very dizzy. I nearly passed out and Ava said the room felt like it was spinning. After five minutes we recovered enough to leave and stagger back to our hotel room. We were told later that the local dish contains a bean which, if not cooked properly, can be quite toxic. Hmmm...!
An early start today for a 6.00am pick-up to Bohol Island. What we weren't told is that, at that time in the morning, the tide is out and we had to wade through deep mud to get to our boat! The boat trip took 2½ hours and we were met by a mini-bus to take us to the main sights of Bohol. Tarsiers [photo left] are the smallest primate in the world and indigenous to Bohol. I could easily hold 2-3 in one hand. Nocturnal creatures by habit, we were lucky enough to see a few with their big eyes wide open. Very cute.
The other famous sight on Bohol Island is the "Chocolate Hills" [photo below] - over 1000 strange bumps stretching as far the eye can see. The odd name comes from the fact that they turn chocolate brown in the dry season.
Jiajia and I are sharing our holiday trip with "CAL" a Kunming family we know well [above]. "Catherine" speaks very good English and gave a speech at our Chinese wedding. Her husband, Liu Zhen, is a kindly man with more English than he lets on. This is his first visit to another country. And their daughter, Ai Ran, is full of fun. It's her first new country too. We spent today island-hopping together, which involves skimming between small islands on a hired outrigger boat and snorkelling whenever we see some fish or coral in the clear seas below. Great fun.
Our hotel is located on a small island called "Lapu-Lapu" (a double anagram of someone's name!) which is a part of the Cebu island group. We took a trip around the mainland today to see the sights. Cebu's 300-year old San Pedro Fort housed a bizarre collection of "baby Jesus" statues, including this one of him balancing on a rock, grabbing a plane (which seems like the ending to the "King Kong" movie to me). We drove on to the huge 16th century Santa Nino Church, busy with worshippers despite today being a Wednesday.
We ended the trip up at the top of a mountain viewpoint. We could feel the temperature drop as we were driven up to the peak. And from the top we could just about make out our hotel in the far distance.
After a first night in a grotty hotel near the airport, we moved on today to our main hotel, which is lovely. The view from the rooftop swimming pool is amazing [see photo]. There isn't much of a beach, but it does have access to a flotilla of small boats which we intend to use during our week here for some island-hopping, snorkelling and scuba diving.
We left for our holiday in the Philippines today. We had decided to save money by making the journey in three flights - each with a few hours layover - so it's taking the whole day to get there. Quite tiring, especially as I'm limping badly with a swollen gout knee [the first time it's been in the knee - not a good sign apparently] and Ava is coping with a sore throat and cough. We're hoping some sun will get us healthy again! I enjoyed this Chinglish sign at Kunming's airport...
Our school term came to an end today and it's been a good one for me, overall. However, I've been struggling with my health for the last week or so - sore throat, cough, skin rash, gout, dizziness - so it's a very welcome break. Jiajia and I fly off to the Philippines tomorrow with a Chinese couple we know well, and their daughter. There may not be any new entries here for a week or so but, in the word of The Terminator, "...I'll be back"
I get quite excited when the number of unique visitors to my blog nears the "200-in-a-day" mark. Imagine my shock on finding that Jan 9th 2012 recorded nearly double that number! I'm not sure I even know that many people!
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Back in 1998 I did my one and only bungee jump, 111m (400ft) above the Zambezi River, from the bridge connecting Zimbabwe to Zambia. It was terrifying at the time, but something I'm glad I did. However, yesterday I saw news on the BBC website of the bungee cord snapping on a girl doing the exact same jump. She plunged into the crocodile-infested river, unable to swim at first because her feet were tied together for the jump. Amazingly, she survived the ordeal, though very bruised and cut up. Who would have thought it was such a potentially dangerous thing to do!!
I saw this sign on the side of a shop the other day. A nice double error! China has no fewer than four different emergency telephone numbers
110 for Police
119 for Fire
120 for Ambulance
122 for Traffic Accident
Not as easy to remember as Britain's "999" for everything. I was prompted to check them as my boss, Robert, had a small car accident earlier this week and, when he told me, I realised I didn't even know the telephone number of the Police here, let alone the Traffic Accident. So now I do!
A stamp marking the imminent Chinese New Year was released last week to quite negative reviews. With its bared teeth, grasping claws and fiery hair, many of the online Chinese community have been saying it's simply too scary! The Post Office's reply has been, "Dragons ARE scary - live with it!" (or words to that effect). It's a special year for me, as I was born in the year of the Dragon. There are 12 animals in total, so you can work out my age if you do the maths. And no, I'm NOT 60! Or scary!
With Jiajia in Shenzhen, Ma-in-law visiting the hospital to dance (don't ask!), no lessons, and a cold, rainy day I decided to visit the "Kunming Zoological Museum". It's something I've been meaning to do since spotting it from a bus some weeks ago.
A smiley guard ushered me into the lobby and called over a curator who told me (in English, no less) that the museum was closed but, as it was only me and as it was raining, she would let me wander around anyway. The first exhibit [see above] made me smile. A dinosaur surrounded by seemingly unconcerned stuffed dogs. But better was to come [see below]. A collection of dogs surrounding a sneaky crocodile, perhaps eyeing them up for lunch!
Most of the museum was less bizarre, however - a range of dinosaur bones and various pinned, stuffed and pickled animals. It was definitely worth an hour of my time though, and I promised the kindly English-speaking curator that I would look into the possibility of bringing some of our schools' students there for a guided tour in English sometime.
I got a fabulous present from my friend Vix this Christmas - a large map of the world with every country covered in a gold layer that can be scraped off when you have been there. For someone who is approaching the magic 100 countries (about half of all of them), it's a great way to keep track of my progress and prompt a bit of boasting to any visitors! At first I decided to just scrape off the individual areas I have travelled to [pic 1], but it looked a bit puny. So I've now scraped off the whole of any country I have been to [pic 2]. So despite only having been to Toronto, the whole Canadian chunk makes North America look a lot more travelled! Is that cheating? I still need to visit Australia and central Africa for it to look really good, while Antarctica would be a massive bonus! But sadly my days of hitting 5-6 countries a year have ground to a halt. It wouldn't be right to do too much exploring without the wife in tow, and Chinese tourists can't always get visas that easily. Still, there are 4-5 new countries looking tempting, Watch this space!
Past blog entries