Today I went to the park I took the most pictures, Singapore's Zoo. I was looking like some rain was about to fall, so the first thing I did was to run to where the white tigers were. I have to say... big cats have something special.
Then, and one of the most interesting animals I have seen, I went to see the baboons. Their social structure is cristal clear, it doesn't take long to understand who is in charge...
Today I went to the River Safari first and then to the Night Safari, two different parks.
Before leaving Singapore I decided to go and visit the Zoo, well, it's not actually one zoo, there are 4 different parks and I'll be visiting them the next three days.
The first one was Jurgong Bird Park, the experience there was great, lots of animals with a rich variety of species. Here are some pics:
Tawau Hill Park is a tropical forest filled with huge insects, some canopy hanging bridges and its home of the tallest tropical tree in the world. I couldn't stop comparing Costa Rica's tropical jungle with this place, they both are very similar, you get the same feeling of being completely surrounded by animals and trees that block the sunlight, the difference lays on the species found in them. I like to think that Cost Ricans plants and animals have their cousins living in Borneo.
The first interesting bug we saw was a wide centipede that is able to become a ball to protect itself, I've never seen a centipede as big and wide as this one.
Then we saw HUGE ants, around an inch long, they had red back. I can only imagine how painful getting bitten by one of those things can be. And right after that, we saw a river of small ants, I guess they were moving the entire colony to another location because they were too many moving at the same time. Here is a video:
Walking on the trail, starting the rout to go to see the tallest tropical tree in the world, we say a brown reddish monkey jumping right in front of us, I still don't know what species it was, but sure it looked like nothing I have seen before. After some taking some pictures, I continued in search for the tree.
I took a flight from Singapore to the island of Borneo, which is part Malaysian, part Indonesian and where the country of Brunei is. I arrived the Friday night to Kota Kinabaru, from there, I went to Sandakan Saturday morning.
Sandakan is the second largest city in Borneo with around 400,000 people. The first thing I did was going to Gomanton Caves, I think that's the scariest place I've been, I really liked it but it's definitely kind of creepy; we only went to one of the biggest caves, and inside of it, there were countless swiftlet's nests, bats and cockroaches... Yes, cockroaches everywhere, of all kinds, colors and flavors. The floor and the handrails were covered by guano and every couple of minutes, I could feel the birds' and bats' poop on falling on me.
"This edible bird nest, crafted by the birds from their saliva, are the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. It has been used in Chinese cooking for centuries, most commonly as Bird’s Nest Soup." www.divedownbelow.com
In the afternoon, I went to Kinabatangan River, second largest river in Malaysia with a length 560 Km. I got into a small boat with other tourists, a captain and a guide, for the first 40 minutes going down the river, we only saw a crocodile, not very impressive for me. It was rainy, I had my raincoat on and my camera's backpack too (although it didn't work and I ended up with a my passport wet). We were still going down the river when suddenly we saw a bunch of different animals; starting with a snake, eagles and horn peak birds (quite strange for me, I had never seen a bird like that, they look like Costa Rican tucans in a way), then we saw some Macaques Monkeys, dangerously near the water, looking for some food but knowing that they could become some crocodile's dinner. And then, it happened, some leaves were moving in one side of the river... We got closer and there it was, a Borneo Pygmy Elephant, one of the few that are still alive. They are supposed to be smaller than the usual Asian Elephant but this one must have been a healthy male because it was huge! I didn't have a clear shoot to take a good picture, he was round 15m away but the dense tropical jungle blocked my camera. It felt amazing, this is the first time I see an actual WILD elephant.
On our way back we saw a group of Proboscis Monkeys (long nosed monkeys) up in the canopy and also, we saw an orangutan wondering around by itself. We were very lucky to see all these wild animals in the river, it is not usual to see so many things in only one trip.
Sunday (today). I visited Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, this time I was able to see several Orangutans for a long time. By the way, Orang means people, and Utan means jungle; so, Orangutan is a composed word in Malay that means people from the jungle. They are beautiful animals, 98% of their DNA is the same as humans, they are the biggest primate outside of Africa, their offspring takes around 8 years to become independent but it stays with its mother till they are 16 years old, making then the most parent dependent animal in the world. Amazing experience, the only downside was that I was having troubles with my camera, the condensation generated by the change in temperatures form my backpack to the outside environment fogged up my pictures, there was a point in which I wasn't even able to focus, I couldn't do much because it was raining and even though I tried to clean the lens it just kept fogging up. I'm actually gonna talk about that in a tutorial (whenever I have the time to release them on my website).
Then, I went to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, funny looking creatures, the long nosed monkeys seen very territorial and with a well defined social structure where the alpha male was controlling the situation at all time. I that same place I had the chance to enjoy the company of the very friendly Silver Leaf Monkeys to which I took lots of pictures, they were good models, the different color babies were very curious and cute.
The Joseon Dynasty is brought back to life in Korean Folk Village, A recreation of a typical Joseon period village on a 243 acre site. This village was built in an appropriate place according to feng shui, with the river flowing in front of it and mountain behind it. There are 260 traditional Korean houses that represent different regions of Korea, they also have exhibits how people use to live back in those days.
They also had shows, there was a 80 year old man (that what they claimed) and 3 horse riders doing all sort of crazy acrobatics.
I was lucky enough to see a traditional Korean wedding:
I played some games:
And my friend and I made some wishes:
I visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace during winter, well, now that it's summer we decided to hike around the palace. Previously, Mt. Bugaksan, the mountain behind the palace was not open to public due to military vulnerability (someone could attack from there), but now, tourist and locals can go. The heavily guarded trail was not for the unfit, furthermore, the weather was hot and humid. At some view-points along the trail it was not allowed to take pictures of the view, if a guard sees you taking a pic, he will follow you and ask you to delete it in front of him, I had to delete some.
The Seoul City Wall links several mountains and has a total length of 18.2Km. Most of this wall was built in 49 days in January and February 1396. 118,000 people from all over the country were brought. This wall is intended to defend capital that King Taejo built. 872 people died building the Wall.
Seoul was too good to not go back! So, here I am. I took a long weekend off work to visit my wonderful Korean friends in Seoul. I was first welcomed by my friend's dog, she didn't forget our love/hate relationship.
I think I'm starting to understand Seoul's buss system, it just looks a little scary at the begging... anyways, most of the time I was accompanied by my awesome friends so I didn't really need to worry too much.
Well, I finally found my friend and we went to her University, Yonsei University, one of Korea's oldest. Beautiful campus with sober gardens:
She wanted to show me a club she is in: Korean Calligraphy. She showed me step by step, from the preparation of the "Ink" (which is not really ink) to the brush she likes to use the most. The pictures below show different characters, some are older (kind of look like hieroglyphs to me).
We found a place in front of a vertical parting lot. Ironically, we ended up eating Japanese food!