February 10, 2011

Sunset on the beach

Last weekend was Chinese Lunar New Year.  This can be compared to Christmas time in other parts of the world.  I mean this in the sense that all the shops close, public transit is reduced, no one is out, there is no readily accessible food on campus, etc., etc.  Any one who is ethnically Chinese and a lot of those who aren’t will return to their families and have a large New Year’s Eve feast.  This is known as a time of reunion and rebirth.

Something interesting is how the Chinese New Year holiday season differs from the Christmas Holiday season in America.  Most people in America put up decorations and have people over for dinner, or go visit people _before _Christmas day.  From what I can tell, even though the New Year was Feb 2nd through 3rd, there is still a festive sort of spirit until somewhere around the end of February.  Tonight I am going to the Chingay Parade downtown, which is a massive Chinese New Year parade, but interestingly it does not happen on “New Year’s” day.

All this is good and well, but as a foreign exchange student, it means that there will be nothing to do on campus during the few days off.  So what to do?  After talking to some friends, the general opinion was that it would be fun to go to Tioman Island off the coast of Malaysia.  I ended up going with Jerika, Nick, Jo (from Germany), and Ville (from Finland).

Getting to Tioman was interesting.  That is the farthest I have ever taken public transit.  I took the NTU-D bus to the MRT station, got on the Green line, transfered to the Red line, got on another bus to cross the border, took a different bus to Larkin Station (the bus stop) at Johor Bahru in the southern part of Malaysia, split a taxi between four people to get to Mersing, stayed a night in Mersing, and finally took a ferry to Tioman. This was a very educational experience because we had to figure out how to use the public transit in a completely different country, where it was sometimes hard to find someone who spoke English.

The island was a blast.  There was lots to do and see.  The water in this area is gorgeous; very blue and very clear.  We ended up taking a boat tour around the island that included stops at a small waterfall and snorkeling points along the way.  The island felt very isolated, a nice contrast to the city life in Singapore.  Overall the trip was a great success.  Here are some pics from the trip:

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