September in Bali: Tulamben

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This is the last of my 2008 escapade series.

It was my first trip to Bali and I was to spend several weeks there mainly diving, with occasional sojourns on land. My first stop was Tulamben, site of the famous Liberty Wreck in northeast Bali. The wreck was originally pulled up to the beach after being torpedoed by the Japanese in World War 2. The Americans didn’t have time to salvage the ship as the Japanese forces were arriving and the Liberty lay on the beach for many years till the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung. Lava from the eruption pushed the wreck back into the water, breaking it up into several pieces. It makes for beautiful diving today and is special in that no one died in this wreck, making for much less of a spooky dive.

It was here that I first started underwater photography. Many pictures weren’t of top quality, but later as you’ll see some were very beautiful, all thanks to my trusty Fuji F100 camera. The wreck somehow attracted many schooling fish that formed spectacular tornadoes. I spent several days just diving the wreck and the surrounding sites on a fairly hardcore routine of four dives a day. It really was nothing but diving…

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… and relaxing on the volcanic sand and shingle beach during the surface intervals.

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We either enjoyed the sun and the sea on the beach…

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… or ventured into shelter to have yummy nasi campur for lunch.

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And at night, again to enjoy the calm sea, this time lit by a bright full moon.

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Those were great diving times.

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August in China: Bicycle Trip in the Karst

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In the morning, Tortoise and I decided to brave the rain and go cycling in the karst area.  Sure, the weather wasn’t the best but the clouds, while obscuring the view slightly, made it even more romantic and atmospheric. There were a few intriguing sights to see and of course a few calories to burn.

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It all looked rather lovely and we almost forgot that we were living in modern civilisation. Almost forgot until we almost got run over by this tour bus!

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We passed by a few atrocities like this ghastly butterfly advertising some Butterfly Springs. We wisely ignored it and headed on.

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After a couple hours on our extraordinarily slow single gear bikes, with everyone and his mum overtaking us, we finally made it to our destination. This is Yue Liang Shan (Moon Hill), with the oddest circular archway I’ve ever seen.

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It was a slippery one-hour climb up. Thankfully the monotony of climbing the steps was broken by the fun-with-English signs along the way.

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I suppose in their concern for the safety of tourists, they forgot that people might fall over from laughing at their odd translations!

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After coming back down from the hill, we cycled back in the rain, happy that we were on the way back instead of on the way there, like these people here.

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We also passed by another section of the Li River and where there was more bamboo rafting and water shooting going on.

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With the hills looming and the river flowing placidly alongside the colourful umbrellas, it was a lovely sight. No wonder so many tourists visited.

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August in China: Guilin City

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Tortoise had flown into Guilin with me. She’d have her weekend getaway after which I’d part ways with her and head northwest.

Guilin is one of those places whose name alone evokes so many romantic images of beautiful shan shui (literally: water and mountain) landscapes. Even those who’ve not been to Guilin before wax lyrical about the beauty of the place. However, the city itself is a bit of a letdown as there’s no escape from the grey monoliths of commerce. Granted, it’s prettier than the average second tier city in China, with tree-lined avenues and parks dotting the city. Aside from the few parks, there’s not much else to Guilin city.

One such park is the famous Xiang Bi Shan (literally: elephant trunk hill). One of the bizarre rock formations looks exactly like the side profile of an elephant half-immersed in the water. Tortoise and I weren’t too keen on paying the ridiculous entrance fees just to see a lump of rock. If memory serves me right, it cost ¥60 here.

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The park designers were devilishly smart in planning this place. We managed to spy the rock formation through the gate and past lush trees and shrubbery. We could just about see it with the naked eye, but it was impossible to snap a picture from the outside at all. We gave up and sat at the outside, instead snapping a picture of this tiny elephant holding up the concrete railing.

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A minor attraction in the area are the Sun and Moon Pavilions (ri yue ta). They’re prettily set in a lake and the reflection from the recent rain made it rather pretty.

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Tortoise and I sat at the park for a while just observing the numerous domestic tour groups passing through the area. There was an elevated platform in front of the pavilions on which groups like to pose for pictures. Here’s one of a group from Hainan University.

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And here’s another of a family with two very bouncy and thoroughly spoilt little girls. We were fascinated by new dynamics in family structure. The function of the adults were just to dispense money and attention. The kids seemed to run the show and had every whim met. They were also experts in acting cute. Check out the heart pose in the picture below.

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After dinner, we passed by the pavilions again. I think it’s a lot prettier in the dark. No prizes for guessing which pavilion is which!

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