Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Francie’s last set of photos

Francie just got her last set of photos developed and I think they are really fantastic (but maybe I am biased).  It includes pictures from Tibet, Bangkok, Indonesia, and New Zealand.  Below is a subset of the pictures or click here to see all of them. 

Boy in Tibet. He brought the horses on Francie’s horse trek.
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I like to call this one ‘Baby with tin can’. Tibet
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This woman was trying out the binoculars. Unfortunately, we think she was trying to focus on the rock a few feet away from her (at the right of the pic).
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Man prostrating himself in the Barkhor in Tibet.
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Kids taking care of business in Lhasa.
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We think this munchkin was in Bangkok. Francie loves the dogs and they love her.
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Three year old elephant in Ayutthaya, Thailand. While you may not love the fact that he is being taught tricks, keep in mind that his previous job was/would have been in the lumber industry (Thailand ‘freed’ all the elephants from doing manual labor). Regardless, it is a pretty damn cute picture.
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Gili Islands (Lombok), Indonesia
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This is definitely the best picture we have of Rinjani. We are standing on the volcano’s outer cone looking down on the inner volcanic cone.
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Francie and I at the Rinjani Volcano.
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These two pictures are of the large Dusky Dolphin pod (at least 200 dolphins) that showed up when we were whale watching.
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We still have a few Burma and China videos to post.  Does anyone know some good software that rotates MOV videos (I was holding the camera sideways).

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November 4, 2007 Posted by | Bangkok, Beach, China, Indonesia, Nature, New Zealand, Photography, Rural, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wildlife | 4 Comments

New Zealand Videos

Here is a video of a Sperm whale breathing on the surface off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand. 

Whale Video

Here is a video of Dusky dolphins swimming around our whale watching boat.  There were about 200 dolphins in this pod and they were happy to see us.

Dolphin Video

November 4, 2007 Posted by | Nature, New Zealand, Travel, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Panda Videos

Here are eight videos of pandas from The Giant Panda Research Center in Wolong, China.  Many of the videos are quite cool-unfortunately, a couple of the videos were shot ‘sideways’.  My bad.

Click on the links below for the videos.  The videos may take a minute or two to download so be patient.

Panda Video 1-One year old pandas roughhousing on some tree stumps.  If you listen closely at the beginning of the video you can hear one of them ‘yelp’.

Panda Video 2-One year old pandas playing and rolling in the grass.

Panda Video 3-One year old pandas. Make sure to note the one dangling in the background.

Panda Video 4-Two year old pandas very high up in one tree. 

Panda Video 5-One year old pandas eating at lunchtime.

Panda Video 6-One year old panda up in a tree and scratching an itch.

Panda Video 7-One year old panda on the slide.

Panda Video 8-Two pandas playing ‘king of the stump’.  I think you can hear one of the pandas growl.

I hope you enjoy the videos.  Click the Panda category on the right to go to the blog posts about working at the Wolong Panda Research Center.

November 3, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

More trip photos!

Francie uploaded some more of her pictures to Flickr and I wanted to post some here.  These are from the batch she got developed in Bangkok.  You can see all of them here.

Greg and the one year old Pandas.
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Camping in Tibet.
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5,300 meters up at a glacier in Tibet.
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Me jumping for joy that the hike is over!
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Kids playing in a park in XiÁn.
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Signs in Hong Kong.
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View of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as we walk down from ‘The Peak’.
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Francie at the main square in Macau.
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Francie screwing around while on the clock at Wolong Panda Research Center.
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Cute Panda pic
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Dried fruits and nuts for sale in the Muslim Quarter–XiÁn, China. I found out that you can only eat so much dried pineapple.
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Two little girls at the Great Mosque in XiÁn, China.
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Slide no workie.
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Figures unearthed from a Tomb in XiÁn, China.
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What this Panda really wants is a Thomas the Train. Balls are boring. 😉
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Suggest your own caption
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Goats in Tibet
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I think I need a thicker coat!
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Ok.  Maybe we will post from Fiji!  Maybe we will just work on that tan!

October 20, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong, Nature, Panda, Photography, Sichuan, Tibet, Travel, Urban, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

Sheepshearing Show (say that 10 times fast)

Francie and I went to a sheapshearing show in Kaikoura before we left.  Not only did they shear their sheep but they also shared their sheep for the benefit of our education and enjoyment. 

We learned many facts that I will call out along the way.

Of course, Francie was thrilled by Act 1.  Feeding a little lamb.  This was not a ‘white as snow’ lamb but a rare black lamb (1.5 months old).  Fact 1: Black sheep are very rare.  One in a thousand–they just appear automagically from somewhere way up the gene ancestory.  Very interesting.

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Fact 2: While this little lamb probably won’t be sent to its death any time soon–90% of all lambs in New Zealand are slaughtered for food (this number has gone up as the price of wool has gone down). Very old sheep are turned into mutton.

Act 2: Ram-Man 

Peter, the sheep shearing guy, brought out the older Ram-man. This beautiful ram was incredibly calm and fun to interact with–he let us hand feed him. Actually, he refused to eat from some people and Peter said–‘he just doesn’t like some people’. Here is Ramman.

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Of course he liked Francie.

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Act 3: Sheep Shearing Show

Then we got to the actual sheep shearing part of the show. Peter’s family has sold most of their land because the price of wool has dropped so much (due to synthetic fabrics) and he just keeps enough sheep to do two sheep shearing shows a day. These sheep regrow their coat in six months (Fact 3). Fact 4: Most of their wool is worth 3 NZ dollars per Kilo. Some other types of sheep have wool worth 10 NZ dollars per kilo. Fact 5: sheep are kept indoors at night so they don’t get too cold.

I know this may look painful but, strangely enough, the sheep didnt seem to mind too much.

The Gotcha shot
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The shearing shot.
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Fact 6: Professional sheep shearers can do a sheep in 33 seconds.

“Can I go now?”
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Fact 7: Lanolin oil is pressed from the wool to make various products.

There were more facts but I think that is all your mind can handle right now.

Go back to work.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | New Zealand, Rural, Travel, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Whales, dolphins and sheep! Oh, My!

We are in Kaikoura, New Zealand and it is very, very beautiful.  There are lots of fun things to do here like whale watching, snorkeling with dolphins, watching some sheepshearing, hiking and just hanging out.

This is what the main street looks like-sleepy! Look at all that available parking!

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We decided to spend some of our precious remaining time to try and see a sperm whale.  We ran into the writer of the Rough Guide and he had went whale watching the day before and apparently the only thing to watch was the third of the boat that had sea sickness. 

Fortunately, we were lucky and had a beautiful, calm day where we saw two sperm whales. 

Here is a picture of the other Whale Watching boat close to the Sperm whale.  The whale hung out there for about 15 minutes so I don’t think he minded our presence.

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Here is Francie helping the captain listen for whales!
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We were also really lucky because we also ran in (not literally, duh) to a pod of Dusky dolphins.  There were at least 200 of them having fun around the boats-jumping high in the air, racing with the boat and all that kind of ‘we’re happy’ stuff.

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After we got off the whale watching boat we did a short hike back to our motel.  We saw a lot of great terrain, sheep and seals.  Beware! Extremely pretty scenery ahead!

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This is the sheep section of the blog post!  Francie just found this great story on Shrek-a sheep somewhere near us that had hidden from the sheepshearers in a cave for six years and was finally caught.  Check out these amazing pics.

Here are several, non-Shrek, sheep.

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Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb and its fleece was not quite as white as snow.
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These sheep are rightfully frightened of Francie. I don’t blame them.
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October 13, 2007 Posted by | Nature, New Zealand, Travel, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Lazy seals

Yesterday we went to visit the local seal colonies in Kaikoura.  I was expecting to see woofing, fish catching, shuffling, swimming, etc. but all we got was a bunch of lazy seals!  No ambition, no drive, all napping all the time…  Gosh!

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October 13, 2007 Posted by | New Zealand, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | 2 Comments

Climbing Gunung Rinjani

September 30th – October 2nd 2007, Greg, Randall, and I climbed up the Rim, down the crater, then up the opposite Rim of the active volcano Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia. The last eruption was 2004!

Practical info: We arranged the trek through Lightning Fast internet cafe on Gili Trawangan in Lombok. We paid 725,000 Rs a piece and this included transport to and from Rinjani, all meals and equipment (except clothing), and porter and guide for 3 days and two nights. From talking to some other travellers on the trail, this appears to be a really good price.

Day 1: We started the trek in the town of Sembalun, which is actually the opposite of most treks – usually you start in Senaru. We did it backwards so that we could arrive in Senaru early enough on the 3rd day to get back to Gili Trawangan that evening. It took us about 5.5 brutal hours of steep climbing to get to the first camp, just below the crater rim. A couple hours in we passed some other hikers who told us how tired they were and informed us that we still had “a REALLY LONG way to go”. Thanks! I really wish they hadn’t said that.

We have a long ways to go:
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Day 2: We could have woken up at 3am the next morning and climbed in the dark to the summit (the highest point on the crater rim) to watch the sun rise. That didn’t happen… instead Randall and I were woken up by our guides at 6am and we stumbled out of the tent and proceeded to hike for 1 hour on a very steep gravel trail in a delirious state to get to the crater rim. Greg stayed behind in the sleeping bag; what a smart man.

We were greeted by this troublemaker when we returned to camp. He stole part of my breakfast and a container of margarine! Just look at the evil gleam in his eyes:
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This is a view of the crater, the lake, and the smaller cone on the morning of day 2:
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You can see from this photo how steep the rim walls are. That is why my legs were severely sore (mostly from the downhill) for 3 full days after we finished the hike.

After eating breakfast under duress (i.e. threat of monkey invasion), we hiked down the crater to the lake and the nearby hot springs. We spent about 3 hours there hanging out. The hot springs were excellent and felt great. The only disappointing thing about the otherwise idyllic spot was the profusion of garbage all over the area, some of which appears to have been deposited there by travelers, not Indonesians. I think it’s really sad that people who should know better and who have every advantage of a thorough environmental education would choose to litter in a National park. Shame on you.

Here is the lakeside view, with Greg the explorer:
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A shot of the hotsprings, from above:
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Our lunch break was long enough for some of us to take naps:
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Following our leisurely break was a brutal 3+ hour scaling of the opposite crater rim and then a 45 minute steep decent to get to camp.

Day 3: The hike from the second rim down to the town of Senaru (our endpoint), was through some totally different scenery and foliage than the way up, which was mostly grasslands. It was jungly, more lush and green, and more humid:
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We saw some more Macaques (the trouble maker monkeys) and also a few of the rare Silvered Leaf monkeys (which are actually black) from a distance. The trail wasn’t quite as steep as the one on the opposite side. My legs were already so sore that I resorted to taking a Vicodin about halfway down. It served the double purpose of both taking away the pain and making me feel like a sparkling individual!

We arrived back in Senaru around 12:30 or so and were back on the beach at Gili Trawangan by 4pm.

The trek was amazing and beautiful, but the feature of it that stands out most in my mind at the moment (probably because today is the first day I haven’t been in pain) is what a physical beatdown it was. The trail was either very steep uphill or very steep downhill without much in between. It makes it all the more impressive that the guides and porters do this hike carrying about 60 pounds each, packed into baskets hung onto the ends of a larger bamboo stick, which they balance on their shoulder. Wow.

Another awesome hiking adventure. Hopefully we’ll have some more during our 10 days in New Zealand, starting Oct. 9th. 🙂

October 6, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Photography, Rural, SE Asia, Travel, Wildlife | 3 Comments

Turtle Haven

We have now been on Gili Trawangan for a few days and it is a lot of fun.  There is great snorkeling right off the beach and both Francie and Randall saw a large turtle today.

There is also a small turtle hatchery on the island.  They try and protect the eggs left on this beach.

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Crate protecting eggs

They have an area where small turtles are being taken care of–its not state of the art by any means but one of the dive shops was telling us that they have actually released a large number back into the wild.

Today we saw this guy cleaning the baby turtles by scrubbing their shells with a brush.

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I am sure this turtle is terrified.
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Here are some close ups of fresh water turtles.

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Check out his snout!
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September 28, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Pets, Travel, Wildlife | 1 Comment

The beach at Gili Meno

A few days ago we left Bali and headed over to the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok.

We started out at the quieter Meno Island.  As you can see, it is another boring, beautiful place with nothing to do.  🙂

Look at the crowds!
Gili Meno beach

Randall strikes a pose!
Randall on beach

This is the old Pier. I bought that boat for four dollars! Now all I have to do is get it through customs.
Gili Meno Old Dock

We did a little snorkelling and saw sea turtles as well as fish. We found these starfish on the beach at low tide.
Starfishes

When you pick one up and flip it over its ‘tube feet’ come out. Don’t worry, we put it safely back in the water with its friend.
Upside Down Starfish

After having fun at the Rust Bar for a few nights (where I met someone who worked on Xbox in the UK and she knew Simon Powell and Kate Wilson) we decided to move over to the bigger island Gili Trawangan.

Now that we have internet we may post even more!

September 27, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Travel, Wildlife | 1 Comment