A Travellerspoint blog

Adventures of Borneo!

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Just arrived back in Macao after a week long adventure in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo with 2 amazing friends from Australia. No amount of pre-trip planning could have really prepared us for all the adventures we would have over the week. Here is just a taste of what Borneo had in store for us!

After 17 hours of travelling (lots of Air Asia delays), I finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur to meet up with my 2 amazing Australian friends that I met at a camp in Kananaskis a few years ago. We then travelled to Kota Kinabalu where we would spend the week catching up on the last year and a half since we last went travelling together. The first day in KK was spent exploring the actual city itself and the surrounding island of Sapi. After some sketchy haggling with a local man, we jump in his boat and he took us to the close island of Sapi where we spent the day swimming, snorkelling, and trekking around the island. The island isn't very big so we decided we would hike the "trail" around the island as a break from laying in the sun. As we near the top of our trail, we run in to a massive 90 lb Monitor Lizard face to face (maybe only 5-10 feet away). Before we could even think about whether this was a friendly lizard or not, we all yelled some choice words toward the Godzilla looking creature (little dramatic) and ran the other way. We later learned that they are pretty harmless lizards and even saw a local poking one with a stick to get it to move (slightly embarrassed at this point). Okay, so we have reaffirmed the fact that we are definitely not from around here!

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The following day we took a trip to UNESCO site of Mt Kinabalu park to enjoy the over 4,500 different flora and fauna species that the region has to offer. It happens to be the oldest rainforest in the world. To finish off the day, we hiked up to a small waterfall that had natural "doctor fish" swimming in it. Those are the fish that nibble on your dead skin and cause quite the ticklish reflex. For a while, we couldn't tell whether they were leeches or fish but very happy to have found out they were fish! Such a crazy feeling!

Keeping the adventure going, the following day we booked a class 3/4 whitewater rafting trip up in the mountains. The whole day started off a little strange when a different company came to pick us up for the trip (I enquired about the name difference and they said "same same"). A couple hour drive up the mountains and we are let off at a train station (didn't see this one coming). We then get on one of the sketchiest trains you can ever imagine. So dirty and packed full of people. Little did we know if would even get sketchier! At the next train stop, we ended up having to switch trains. The only problem was was that the new train was full. The train conductor pointed to the roof of the train and said we could ride up there instead. Always up for an adventure, the 3 of us climb to the top of the train and hold on for dear life for the rest of our journey. The roof ended up being much more pleasant then the inside of the train! We finally get to out on the river and the fun begins. We now know that it isn't the same rafting company we booked with but we are hoping they are still legit. The rafting starts off by the guide telling us to jump in to make sure our lifejackets are working properly (I guess thats one way to check). The rafting itself was quite a blast. Some massive rapids that I didn't think our dingy would make it through (boat went up completely vertical a few times). Most of the class 3 rapids we decided would be fun to swim through so it ended up being more of a swift water swimming trip then a rafting trip. It was quite the challenge trying to gasp for air without getting the very muddy water in your mouth. It was definitely the fastest and biggest rapid river that I have experienced yet (especially swimming through it). At the end of the trip, we learned that there were saltwater crocodiles that call the Padas River home...glad we found out at the end! Ended up being such a fun day!!!

The next few days were filled with Probiscus Monkey and firefly tours (unreal to see), Orangutan Sanctuary visits (Orangutans are amazing) and even a kayak adventure out to a deserted island. All of these days were amazing!

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After a couple more days of celebrating the New Year, swimming and relaxing by the pool, working on our golf game with a PGA pro (had no idea at the time....we were just bantering back and forth with the guy all week) it was finally time to head back to Kuala Lumpur. We thought all of our adventurous moments were over but we didn't realize we had one last Malaysian taxi trip to take to our hotel in KL (late at night I might add). We get in the taxi from the airport and don't think much of it. We tell the driver where we are going and he starts off down the highway. All seems to be going good until he turns off the highway and down an unpaved dark trail. I jokingly ask him if this is a short cut and he says it is. He tells us he knows this way because he lives down here (uh oh). He then gets a phone call and all he says is "I'll be there in about 5 minutes". The 3 of us are starting to get a little worried with this off the beat track road (okay I was entering into panic mode). I then enter survival mode and start chatting with our driver like crazy making "personal connections". Asking him about his wife and kids and telling him that I teach students the same age as his kids (hoping to touch his sympathetic side) ....anyways it was panic mode for nothing because he took us right to our hotel safe and sound. Made for a funny story and a racing heart beat that we laughed about for the next hour as we all discussed our different survival techniques we were thinking of (funny the tricks your mind plays on you).

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Borneo ended up being an amazing trip with so many fun and adventurous moments! Was great reuniting with some fantastic friends and we have some good stories to laugh for years to come! And yes, Mother/ concerned family members....we were safe the whole trip haha!!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 06:11 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Langkawi and Palawan!

sunny 31 °C

Blog Time!

One of the many benefits of living and working in an Asian country is the close proximity to other countries. And for someone who has a travel bug as I do, this means lots of travelling of breaks!! 2 months in to teaching thus far and I have been fortunate enough to travel to Langkawi, Malaysia over a long weekend and I just got back from Palawan in the Philippines. Both were absolutely amazing trips but very different trips to say the least.

Langkawi

On a long weekend in September, a group of 9 teachers and myself got together to make the trek to Malaysia. Initially it was mind blowing that you could travel to another country for 3 days but I think I could get used to it! We ended up staying at an absolutely gorgeous resort called Berjaya. It was one of those picture perfect resorts on stilts over the blue ocean. It was an UNESCO ecological park. Monkeys were hanging around everywhere, massive monodor lizards, and even "bat eating" centipedes!

Our weekend consisted of eating amazing food, laying on the beach, swimming, kayaking, and hiking to a pretty cool waterfall. The waterfall had rock areas smooth enough that you could slide down them like a waterslide! Awesome!! Our stay in Langkawi was definitely not long enough so Im sure one day I will be back!

A little added drama to the trip.... on our way back home, "super typhoon Usagi" was supposed to be hitting Hong Kong and Macao. It was forecasted to be the biggest typhoon of the year in the world. Needless to say, all flights were cancelled and we were stuck in Kuala Lumpur for a couple nights. The storm never ended up amounting to anything.

Palawan

Just got back from quite the adventure in the Philippines! We had a week break from school so another teacher and myself decided to take a trip to Palawan in the Philippines. The location that we went to was called "El Nido". It is pegged as one of the last "ecological frontiers" in the world and well as one of the best beach locations in the world. One of the Survivors was hosted here as well as "Bourne Legacy" was also shot here.

Although worth it when you arrive in El Nido, it is definitely not easy to get to. Our flight was Macao to Manila and Manila to Puerto Princesa. Once we got to Puerto Princesa you had to get on a van and drive 5-6 hours to El Nido through some of the bumpiest roads I've been on. And that was their national highway! Once you arrive in El Nido it is absolutely spectacular! Beautiful blue waters, white sandy beaches, and a very "untouched" Philippine village. The village only has power from 2pm-6am (if you are lucky) which kind of adds to its allure!

Our vacation was spend island hopping, waterfall trekking, searching out some amazing beaches, eating and drinking great food, and paddle boarding along the coast!

Our Thanksgiving was spent on a Island Hopping tour where we got to visit some amazing islands and beaches! Some were only accessible through small little cave openings that you had to snorkel through! Lunch was a BBQ complete with pork, chicken, barracuda, rice, and mangos! Yum! And some of the best snorkelling I've got to experience to date. Saw sea turtles, sharks, lion fish, and much more!!

Despite the adventure getting to El Nido it was definitely worth it!

2 amazing trips and hopefully many more to come! Borneo is next on the list over Christmas! Stay tuned!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 07:15 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Into the Swing of Things!

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Finally another blog post! It's been a couple weeks since I last posted but I will attribute that to lesson planning taking a higher importance on my "to do" list and not procrastination!

I have finally completed my first official week of teaching! Students have been in the hallways for a week now and it sure is good to see the school come alive! I have met and taught all my classes but remembering names will be a major challenge. I have 13 classes of approximately 20 students, all of which wear the same uniform and hat. When they aren't facing me, I have no clue as to who they are! The students in general are very polite and quite adorable. I have learned that kids are kids regardless of the country though! The students Im teaching were born in over 20 different countries. Places such as Australia, Qatar, Thailand, USA, Canada, Korea, Phillipines, Mainland China, and so much more! I am amazed about how worldly these students are!

The first week of teaching went well and I am definitely learning lots day by day. Some challenges that I am facing as a teacher in Macau are the weather (its either stinking hot or pouring rain and there isn't enough indoor spaces to teach in), teaching effectively to ELL (english language learner) students (how do you explain your game effectively to all the students when they don't speak the same language), and that kids are petrified of grass and bugs! I tried to get the kids to sit on the grass so I could talk to them and that was a major challenge! They thought the grass was pokey and there were ants in it! They also didn't want to get their clothes dirty! I need to take these students camping haha!

That being said, I absolutely love the teaching so far! The school is great, the teachers so supportive, and the students really do make me smile! They are very witty! An interesting fact about Chinese students is that many of them have english names for school but some of the names the parents give the kids are very interesting! Stitch, Yo-Yo, Focus, Prince, Barbie, Mercedes, Vegas, Apple, and Dash....just to name a few! Oh, and I am teaching some grade 3 math as well at the school! Somehow my beloved math continues to follow me!

Life outside of school (yes there is a bit of one) is going great as well. I have a fantastic roommate and we tend to do a few things on the weekends such as heading out for a movie, or eating portuguese food. She also makes sure that I don't get lost in this not so very large city! The teachers are also very social after hours...whether its heading out for drinks, a dinner club, book club, or playing squash after work, there is always something going on.

Also, the opportunity to travel here is crazy! I just booked a weekend in Malaysia at a beautiful secluded island called Langkawi. There is 10 teachers going for 3 days! And its going to cost us less then $200! Im thinking the Phillipines and Indonesia are next on the list!

I will try to write my next blog within a week to give you an idea more about the culture and living of Macau! Its quite different here and very unique!

Sending out lots of Macau love to you all!
Miss you :)
Kaitlyn

PS- did I mention that I got licked 3 times by a grade 1 kids yesterday? Well I did...very unpleasant. We then had a talk about personal bubbles! He thought it was hilarious!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 00:43 Archived in Macau Comments (1)

Typhoons, Teaching, and TIS

storm 26 °C

Monday of this week was my first day of my first teaching job (at the International School of Macao)! Exciting to say the least! I barely slept and woke up just as excited as a kid on their first day of grade 1. This week and the following week is new teacher orientation and staff training. The students won't arrive until August 26th. Has been a great couple of days of training, learning everything from technology to just daily routines and procedures. All the staff I've met so far are great! Monday for lunch the school took the new teachers out for lunch at the Venetian to a restaurant called Portofinos. Some of the best Italian food I've ever had!

So apparently this week is a week of firsts! Today I got to experience my first T8 typhoon! School was shut down for the day as the buses and bridges close down in Macau when there is a typhoon so it is pretty hard to get around. I didn't venture out in to the storm this time but besides being windy and rainy it didn't look too bad or destructive...at least not from the 5th floor!

I also learned a vital lesson in communication this week. It is a very good idea to learn how to say the name (or at least get it written down in chinese characters) of the place where you live. I tried getting a taxi to take me home after school but after the taxi driver realized I didn't speak Chinese I got kicked out! Pretty funny looking back at it...I should have known better! I did make it home thanks to some very useful cue cards the school made up for the teachers in our welcome package! I had the name of a close grocery store on the cue card and then walked back from there! I have since learned how to say my apartment name in Cantonese as well as I have learned the bus routes!

Thats been about it for the last few days! Struggling a bit with grocery shopping and cooking as most of the things I cook at home, the ingredients are very expensive. Like $7 for a bag of spinach or $5 for a small bag of carrots. I will have to learn to cook more local style dishes soon!

Tomorrow is a full day of training as we missed today but we will head to the hard rock cafe in the evening to listen to the house band play. The following day we get a city tour for most of the day!

Hope life is going great back at home! I'm missing having my pup on my lap so if I come home with 6 adopted dogs, 2 monkeys, and a panda...you will know why!

Hugs!
Kaitlyn

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 05:05 Archived in Macau Comments (1)

First Week of Macau Adventures!

sunny 33 °C

5 days in to my Macau adventure and I figured I would write once more before starting work tomorrow. Its been a whirlwind of a week but each moment is so unique to anything I have ever experienced before. Prior to moving, I would get my adrenaline kicks from rock climbing or flyboarding...currently my adventures are figuring out what bus to get on and what street I am at. There is no doubt in my mind that my current adventures give me just as much of an adrenaline kick as before (although I did bring my climbing harness just in case!)!

I've decided that life is a lot more beautiful and manageable when you proactively create moments of awe. With that in mind, yesterday I decided to go exploring to the nearby area of Coloane. It is more of a rural section of Macau with huge Portuguese influence. It was a day full of getting lost but also finding lots of hidden beauty. I started off the day by getting of the bus that would take me in the direction needed. It was about a 30/40 minute bus ride and the bus was packed! I didn't have anywhere to hang on to so I soon learned the importance of strong core muscles as I attempted to stay upright throughout the whole journey. My first stop I got off at the Panda exhibit where I payed just over a dollar to visit a couple pandas. Pretty neat to see! The next destination on my list was the Coloane Village...unfortunately I missed that stop but fortunately I ended up at Cheoc Van Beach instead. I once again took a wrong turn so I didn't actually stand on the beach but rather took a hike along the rocky cliffs instead which was nice anyways! After being drenched in head to toe with sweat it was time to actually visit Coloane Village. Such a beautiful village! Full of character and charm! Beautiful churches, houses, and temples. That was it for the morning of exploring but I will head back to the area very soon for some hiking and chilling on the beach (I will remember to bring like 10 L of water though)! On the way back I actually had a seat on the bus which was nice! Got some perspective of the area such as where the Venetian and other big casinos were.

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Before finishing this blog off for the night I got to commend the amazing school and staff that I will be working at and with this year. They have all been so friendly and helpful thus far. Everything from meeting up with me for a smoothie to talk about different school things to the headmaster inviting all the new teachers over for snacks and drinks so we could get to know each other. They make this huge change in my life so much easier!

Things I am learning so far:

- Charades is a vital life skill. Without acting abilities I would get no where in Macau!
- Personal bubbles are overrated!
- Air conditioning might be just as important of an invention as the wheel

I will write next week! Keep sending those messages to me...the love keeps me going :)

Kaitlyn

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 04:59 Archived in Macau Comments (2)

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