Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer 2012

Travel Escalator

As summer vacation began to approach, I was listening to friends at school make their plans to go back to the States and others worrying that their kids would be bored staying in Penang for the summer.  Well, mine did not get to return to the States, but they can definitely not complain about being bored.  The day after school got out, we hopped on a plane to Hong Kong to meet my parents.  We got to do some things we did not do when we were in Hong Kong in January such as see the Symphony of Lights, ride the longest outdoor travel escalator and go to Ocean Park.

Symphony of Lights - view from roof of YMCA
We also discovered that it is fun to stay at the YMCA - at least in Hong Kong!  Great view from our rooms and from the roof you had a wonderful view of the light show.  And, it is close to a subway station!

Botanic Gardens 

We then headed to Penang with my parents to show them around the island we are currently calling home.  We had to take them to the Spice Garden, the Butterfly Farm, Penang Hill, Youth Park, Botanic Gardens, the War Museum and the State Museum.  It was a busy week and a half.  However, our adventures were not over. 

We then packed our bags again and headed to Singapore with my parents before they had to return to Texas.  There was so much to do in Singapore so we had to make the best use of our time.  We started off our trip with a day at the Singapore Zoo followed by the Night Safari.  The Singapore Zoo is definitely one of my favorite zoos that we have visited so far and we have gone to quite a few.  My kids got the chance to ride an elephant again and Cade got into a sunflower seed shelling contest with an orangutan  - the orangutan won! 

Cade shelling sunflower seeds.

Singapore Zoo - Elephant Ride

We also got to ride on the Singapore Flyer which is currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, but we have heard rumors that they are building a taller one in New York.  I guess we will just have to plan a visit to New York!  We spent a day at the Singapore Science Centre where we got to get in for free because of the annual membership we got last summer at the NASA Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  (We also got in for free at the Petrasains Museum in Kuala Lumpur.)  My parents then had to return to Texas (and I think they were ready because we had kept them busy for three weeks).  However, we had an extra day in Singapore so off we went to Universal Studios.  Taking out Disney World, this is the best theme park I have been to.  The Transformer ride was awesome - Cade rode it three times.  Cade also was tall enough to ride the rides that go upside down and he discovered he really likes them.  Now we just have to stretch Cara a little so she is tall enough. 
Universal Studios Singpore

We then headed back to Penang to wait for a week and a half for our best friends to arrive for a visit to Penang.  While we were waiting, my kids had a sleepover with friends whose parents are dorm parents at Dalat so my kids were very excited to get to spend the night on campus.  They also started diablo lessons and judo lessons.  So the week and a half went by quite quickly. 
Then the Strobel's arrived and we had to show them around our little island of course.  So another trip to the Spice Garden (actually two because our first trip got rained out), the butterfly farm, a drive around the island, Fort Cornwallis, the Chew Jetty, Hard Rock Hotel and lots of restaurants (it is easier and cheaper to take 8 people out to eat than to try to get stuff to cook plus my kitchen is much smaller).  It was wonderful to get to see them and to have someone back home that knows where we have been living and what life is like here in Penang.  We also introduced them to some fabulous food and now I have to learn how to make Char Kway Teow before I can move home.

Hard Rock Hotel

Fort Cornwallis

Once the Strobel's left, we had five days before we were heading out to China.  We had gotten our Chinese Visas while we were in Hong Kong so now we could go.  I wasn't so sure about going to China, but my kids really wanted to go, and when would we be so close again.  Our first stop was Beijing.  Thank goodness for my friend Kim who had been there last year and she passed along the contact info for the tour guide they had used to go to the Great Wall.  We decided to go ahead and book Cady for three days.  She took us to Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Hutong area, Mutinayu to see the Great Wall, and to some great restaurants.  It was so great to have a tour guide and a driver and Cady told us some great stories along the way. I think our favorite was the Great Wall.  We got to ride up on a cable car and then walk along the Great Wall for a little while.  Then the real fun came and we rode a toboggan down.  Not something any of us will forget! 

Drum Tower

Cade and Cara became quite the attraction at Olympic Park.
 People were lining up to have their pictures taken with them. 

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Cady then arranged for us to have a tour guide in Xi'an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  Ruby was our tour guide in Xi'an.  She took us to the factory and Cade and Cara got to see how they made the warriors.  It was truly amazing to see all the unearthed warriors and hard to imagine that there are still more that they have not excavated.   We also got to walk along the city wall in Xi'an.

Cade and Cara got to make
their own Terra Cotta Warriors.

Terra Cotta Warriors - I believe this is pit 2.
Pearl Tower
Shanghai World
Financial Center
Unfortunately, we only had one full day in Xi'an and then we were off to Shanghai.  I don't know if I was just tired of traveling or if it was Shanghai, but it was definitely not my favorite place.  Our main reason for the stop in Shanghai was to go up into the Shanghai World Financial Center tower which currently has the world's tallest observation deck.  Cade wants to go up into as many tall building as he can so we got to mark another one off his list.  We also went up into the Pearl Tower where we got to walk out on a glass observation deck and look down on Shanghai.  We did get to eat some great food in Shanghai including some great Shanghai dumplings.  We enjoyed our China trip, but we were all ready to get back home to Penang. 

Temple in Cambodia

Angkor Wat

Of course, summer vacation wasn't over and Chris had another day off at the beginning of August so we had to go on another trip.  So, Cambodia here we come.  I was not looking forward to Cambodia - not for any reason other than I was done with traveling.  We got some advice from some friends who had been and managed to again book a tour guide which again was a wonderful blessing.  Mr. Nin picked us up after we arrived at the hotel and took us to Angkor Wat and then to some other temples.  He told us some history along the way and pointed out some of the carvings. 
The second day we went to the floating village and got to have an idea what life is like in Cambodia. 
Floating Village
The last day we went to the artisan market and the silk farm.  Then Mr. Nin took us to eat lunch at a local's restaurant.  Cambodia is definitely a place I could visit again.

Local Restaurant -
The kids enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks while we waited on our food. 
The food was great.  So glad we got to try out a local place.

During the few days we weren't traveling this summer, we did manage to stay quite busy and enjoyed a few days with friends at the Hard Rock Hotel.  Now, school has started so we will have to limit our trips for a while. 

First Day of School -
Cara in 2nd grade and Cade in 4th grade
 However, we are already working on our New Zealand/Australia trip during the Christmas break!