Sunday, 27 April 2008

Week 4 Penang

Dear Ethel, family and friends,

We are here in Penang and have now finished the second week of our English Language course. This week we have been doing some practical work as well as study. Monday we gave a test lesson to our class mates and tutors, which was nerve racking enough. However on Tuesday we had to teach live teenagers. Yes we went to a school here in Penang, Sri Palita, an international high school. A lot of Asian countries send their children to safe areas like Penang to study English. At Sri Palita there are kids from Thai, Korean, Japanese, China, Malaysia and more. It’s been an interesting week to say the least.

Apart from our schooling this week, we hired a car on Thursday. Our friend How Seng from school, as a native Chinese Malay, helped us negotiate with a local Indian man a good price. It pays to have a local on your side. We have the car until we leave, about 16 days or so for about $280 Aust dollars and leave it at the airport. It’s great to have transport now, as we have a bit of free time.

This weekend we went out on Saturday to do a bit of touristy things. We went to the other side of the Island to have a look around, and went to the Butterfly Farm and National Park. Its good to be mobile and explore a bit. We spent Saturday afternoon with our friends Danny & Barbara. Sunday has been a quiet day doing some school work, swimming and lunch out at a nice Indian Restaurant.

We have news that our friends Michael & Joyce have made plans to visit us in Penang on their way back to KL. So we look forward to seeing them the week after next.

All the best for now

Ric & Louise

Monday, 21 April 2008

Week 3 Penang

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,

Week 3 brings us to Penang for our month of study, to learn how to teach English to speakers of other languages, (TESOL course).We arrived in Penang from our week long stay in Cambodia on Sunday afternoon at about 4pm. We didn’t have much time to get acquainted with our surroundings before we had to go to school in the morning. We are staying at the northern tip of Penang, Batu Ferrangi is only 2 km away. We are staying in a 23 story unit block or Condo as they call them here, we are on the 18th floor and have a great view north, towards Thailand, we can see the mainland from here, and I guess Thailand is not that far away.

Going back to school is a great experience, at first we were not shore how we would go, but after the first week, the worst of it is over. We passed our first test, and are waiting on assignments to come back on Monday. Another exam tomorrow, as well as a practical demonstration of how we will teach a class. But apart from that, no pressure at all. Needless to say we have been busy preparing for the test and prac work, so not much of a chance to get out and see things. Only 3 people in our class, Louise and I and a guy named How Seng, a Chinese Malay, from KL. We actually start teaching on Tuesday. We have our prac work at an international school and will be teaching teenagers, so it will be interesting

We have been eating out at the hawker stands a lot, rice and noodle dishes for about a dollar or 2. Have made some friends at the school, Danny is a teacher and is from Coffs Harbour and is in Penang with his wife Barbara and two young daughters. They will be staying here a year or two. We had drinks with them on Friday night and went out to the night food markets for dinner.

Haven’t had a chance to up load any photos from Cambodia yet or do any more video, as we have been busy at school and internet connection is also very patchy here. But we will try to stay in touch.

All the best for now

Ric & Louise

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Week 2 - Cambodia

Dear Ethel Family and Friends,
Week 2 passes by as another very busy one, We have spent 6 nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia, seeing the incredible temples of Angkor Wat (see Tomb Raider Movie). We spent the week with the Johnstons as well and stayed in a very nice hotel close to the heart of town, called the Angkor Star Hotel at $30US a night.
The major form of transport around town and the temples are the Tuk tuks, pronounced (took), a motorbike with a carriage attached to the back. They are real cheap usually $1US to anywhere in town, except at night when they double their price.
The food was great as well $3-$US5 for a main meal of a good size, beer $1US and spirits $2US. The locals are friendly and being Buddhists we never felt uncomfortable walking on the street even at night.
The Temples are of course the highlight, we opted for a weekly pass, so we didn’t have to cram it all in 1 or 3 days, so we could have a temple day and a rest day. We ended up doing the temples early, getting up at 5am and coming back at about 10am for swim at hiding in aircon till the afternoon.
The Angkor Wat site is so big, we had a look at it on Google Earth before we left, but wow. The Angkor Wat temple Site is the most impressive, as it is the most intact temple, but we went to 12 or so of the temples and found some of the others more enjoyable because there were less other tourists and you were able to wander around at your own leisure. We did sunrises and sunsets and did the balloon ride as well, although that was a bit disappointing, as it is a stationary balloon and takes you 180m up and attached to a cable and takes you back down again, it’s not really close enough to the Temple. Michael & I did an extra day to the girls and saw a few of the outer temple sites.
While we did the extra temple day, Louise & Joyce did a coffee shop, market and Massage day. They went to a massage place called “Seeing Hands”, massage by the blind. The only complaint they had was that they had to ask the masseurs’ to turn on the lights, as they were left in the dark.
A very enjoyable stay in Siem Reap, well worth the visit. Next stop for us is Penang to do our month long english course, the Johnston’s are off to Puket and we catch up with them next in Borneo. PS writing this in the plane again, a good way to pass the time and recount the events.
All the best for now, will post more photos and some video through the week, I hope.
Ric & Louise.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Week 1 - Kuala Lumpur

Dear Ethel, family and friends,
The end of week one, already, although it feels like a couple of weeks, as we have packed so much into it. We left last Tuesday morning 1st April, from the Gold Coast... early, and had been up since 2am anyway. The Flight was an hour late leaving but we made up time, arriving Kuala Lumpur only 40 minutes late. We were picked up by Michael’s friend, Tony Yap from central station, and taken out to our hotel in Kapong, a suburb on the outskirts of the city.

After checking in, a shower and freshen up, Tony picked us up and took us out to dinner, the first of many, to a local Steam Boat restaurant, (steam boat is food cooked in boiling water at your table, noodles, dumplings, prawns, calamari, bockchoy eggs and lots more). The quality & quantity of food is amazing and very tasty and very cheap, about $3 per person.

The following day, Wednesday tony picked us up after the huge hotel breakfast, and did a quick tour of town and dropped into his house, followed by lunch and a trip to Batu Caves. The Cave is a Hindu Temple at the top of 272 odd steps. A giant 50 foot golden Buda stands in front of the caves (see photos and video when there posted). That evening we ate with Tony again at a place called Gluttons Paradise, (say no more).

Thursday we went into town to do some site seeing, doing a city walk and ending up in the shops. We were searching for a particular place, Pavilion Plaza. Louise & I saw a clip on TV in Australia about a Fish Foot Spa, hundreds of tiny fish that nibble your feet to get rid of the dead skin, leaving your feet silky smooth. We found the place ok and Louise & Joyce booked in for a half hour Spa, for about $10. The results were hilarious as you will see in the video. There are two tanks to choose from, Louise & Joyce went to the front one, mainly so I could get some video and photos. However, the staff did not tell them that this tank had the bigger fish in it. They had their feet in about 5 minutes shrieking with laughter, before someone told them that the other tank had smaller fish that would be a bit more gentle... sooo funny. See video below. Needless to say we had dinner with Tony.

Friday, went to the Petronas Twin Towers. The visit begins with a 3D movie about the towers, but is really propergander for the oil company Patronas, who built the complex. The views from the sky bridge, joining the two towers was great. More dinner with Tony.

Saturday and Sunday were spent shopping, resting and eating out with Tony. On the Saturday night we dined at the KL Tower revolving Restaurant overlooking the city with great views of the twin towers. We finished our dinning extravaganza with a final Steam Boat with Tony last night, Sunday.

We really enjoyed our stay in Kuala Lumpur, with thanks to Tony Yap and has been fun sharing it with our friends Michael & Joyce. Today we are all off on another adventure to Cambodia, to Siem Reap, to see the temples of Angkor Watt. Writing this post on the plane again as I just don’t seem to have the time on the ground. I have also only managed to do the one video so far, but I did manage to post it on youtube, will hopefully post a copy here too.
All the best till next time,
Ric & Louise

Friday, 4 April 2008

Take Off

Take Off
1st April 2008
Dear Ethel, Family & Friends,
Well today is take off day and it’s been a long time coming. We have spent 3 months packing the house and now have paying tenants. We also finished up with Australia Post at Easter time, a week ago now and have spent some quality time with Louise’s Mum in Bathurst. We travelled back from Bathurst only yesterday, taking an early morning bus to Central in Sydney, a train to the airport and a flight to the Gold Coast with Virgin. However the biggest problem to date has been obtaining my British visa.

Louise has a British Passport as her father was British as well as an Australian one, so I thought I’d apply for a British Residence visa to allow us to work and live as long as we wanted in the UK and Europe. So I went online to find out what was involved how long it would take etc. The cost alone $1250.00 was enough to make me ring the British High Commission (BHC) to get the facts from them as the information on the website was not clear. To phone them however costs money, $3 a minute and you guessed it they put you on hold.
I eventually talked to a consultant who said it should take only 14 working days. So I was assured by this and posted my Application, $1250 fee plus $20 return postage, my Passport and some other documents they would need.

I waited the 14 working days, and as I had no response from the BHC, and paying my $3 a minute got onto a consultant, who informed me they haven’t looked at my application yet but would do so over the next few days and that It sometimes takes up to 3 MONTHS to get a visa, (not the news I wanted to hear). So I waited... and got an email requesting more details including our original marriage certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages not the one we were given when we were married, plus letters from Louise, and my Uncle in the UK all within 5 days or they couldn’t process my application. Well I was running out of time and certainly couldn’t get the marriage certificate as we never had a copy of it in the first place. As they do not respond to emails, I had to phone them again, asking what could be done as I was concerned about getting my passport back. I was told to put a letter in writing to cancel my application and forfeit my application fee and fax it to the BHC.

It was now about 6 working day before Easter on the Wednesday, so we quickly typed the letter and faxed it from a friends place and waited. I phoned the BHC the following day to make sure they had received my fax, they told me to phone back that afternoon to find out.? So I did as instructed, all the while paying my $3 a minute for the privilege and was told it could take 24 hours to find out if they had received my fax. “OK” I said, “If I phone you back this time tomorrow, can you let me know if you received my fax?”,” well you can try, but it may take up to 48 hours”, was my reply. Mmm, now I’ve seriously got steam coming out of my ears. But I restrain myself and thank her very much and faxed the letter again, just in case. Friday comes around and I phone in the morning and ask if there is any news, no phone back this afternoon. In the afternoon, still no news, So I say can you PLEASE phone THEM to find out, but no they can’t even phone THEM whoever THEM is?

Well long story cut short, we spent a long and sleepless weekend wondering if I’d ever get my passport back. Monday rolls around and a guy from BHC phones and says the passport is in the mail, but no application fee. Well that was a hard lesson learnt. The good news is I got it back with two days to spare and was able to leave the sunshine coast on East Sunday to join Louise. All I can say about the visa episode is that it was a very “Yes Minister” moment, and I can’t think of a more ridiculous way to run an embassy, but I guess that’s how they can afford to pay their staff and keep the riffraff out of their country. Well it worked, and we will have to re evaluate the Europe leg of our trip. We can stay in Europe for 6 months at a time, so we will see how that pans out.

Well I write this blog entry on the plane as we leave Australia behind us for who knows how long.
All the best for now
Ric & Louise