Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, Borneo

Before I ever went, when I thought about Borneo, like most people, I thought of a rugged jungle island and of course the orangutans. The reality is quite a bit sadder than this as palm tree plantations have taken away much of its jungles and the orangutans are suffering because of this. They have lost their habitats and many are injured at the hands of the farmers.

A mom and baby that we saw when visiting the rehabilitation center.

I remember watching a t.v program about 7 years ago about the Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation center. I was so interested in their work and seeing the love and care that they give to the orangutans was wonderful to watch. I never forgot about that show and then when I had the chance to go to Borneo in 2011 I jumped at the chance to visit the center and see the animals for myself.

We arrived in to Sandakan which is the nearest city/airport to the center and had a cheap delicious meal the night before going to the center. We had also booked a three day trip in the jungle after seeing the orangutans to hopefully spot some in the wild so it was a jam packed couple of days.

Sepilok is one of only four orangutan rehabilitation centers in the world. Thy help orphaned, injured, rescued and displaced orangutans learn how to live in the wild again. They have a huge jungle area where the animals can live. There is a feeding stand where the animals can be fed during the day. What's interesting is that when the orangutans become confident they can live in the outer areas of center away from all humans and survive by themselves, preparing for being released in to the wild. Sometimes these orangutans may only be seen at the feeding area only a couple of times a year.

Arriving at the center we were given some basic rules to follow (no flash photography/no loud noises) and were ushered in to a beautiful jungle walk. There are no cages so the animals are completely free in this area. When we walked in a man working there pointed up to a tree and we saw it moving, then an orangutan started climbing down and swinging down closer and closer to us. Before we knew it a beautiful mom and her baby were standing right next to us on the walkway. We were both mesmerized by her, she started walking along the walkway with us and then we saw another one, this time a male. It was so amazing that we got there at the time that we did as many people didn't have a chance to see them. It was probably one of the most memorable experiences in my life. We stayed for another while watching their feeding time and taking it all in and then watched an information video.

Coming closer to us.

Beautiful mom and baby.

Mom checking that baby is doing okay.

Scoping us out from afar.

Jasons "I just saw an orangutang" face.

An older male.

It was an incredible experience and I think we both walked around with huge smiles on our faces for the rest of the day. If you ever get the chance I would definitely recommend visiting the center and seeing all of the wonderful work that they do for the animals of Borneo (they also house baboons, sun bears and other animals)

It isn't just orangutans that you can see at the center.

How to get there:

Air Asia flys daily from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan. You can get a taxi from Sandakan to the rehabilitation center. 

Where to stay:

We stayed in a guesthouse in Sandakan on the first night (I can't remember the name of it) and then joined the Uncle Tan's adventures for 2 more nights in the jungle. They have an office right by the rehabilitation center. There are also many hotels on the road that leads up to the center. You can find out more about Uncle Tan's here

You can find out more about Sepilok and the Orangutans here

Sunday, 13 July 2014

June in Korea.

Life has been moving quite quickly this last month. I've been pretty busy so haven't had a chance to update. June is always a really busy time for English teachers in Elementary schools here in Gimhae as it's time for the English speech contest. Every school in the city enters a child from each grade (3rd-6th) in to the contest where they will be asked a few questions about themselves and then get asked to describe a picture. I was helping my kids after school most days on the run up to the event but unfortunately none of them placed.

Some of my students before taking a road cycling test.

Other than that myself Jason and some of our friends have been trying hard to lose some weight so we've been doing a lot more cycling, hiking and healthy eating. We also managed to fit in one more camping trip before the rainy season got here and that trip was amazing!

Jason and Ian on one of our bike rides.

My beautiful home.

Jason on the bike path.

One of our hikes.

The view out to Jangyu.

This time we went with our friend Ian , and some other friends. Our friend Derek also brought his gorgeous golden retriever so it was great for Willy to finally spend some time with a dog that is bigger than him!
We were camping on a beautiful sand bank next to a river near Hadong. The weather was absolutely perfect for us and it was such a fun relaxing weekend. The fact that Ian is a great cook and brought some amazing food really helped matters too!

Our amazing campsite.

Too beautiful!

Our campsite.

Our tent.

The beautiful view from our tent.

and again.

Willy and his new friend Plato.

Grumpy puppy sitting by the bonfire.

The bonfire.

Good times!

We also headed to Songjeong beach in Busan for a day and it was also great fun. Songjeong doesn't have a subway nearby so it doesn't get too busy compared to Haeundae or Gwangali beaches. This was my first time in Songjeong and I really liked it, the water was nice and there were some really great restaurants nearby. Unfortunately, that Friday I had gotten my wisdom tooth removed and it was still pretty painful so I didn't get to really enjoy the great food that we had. Before heading home we stopped off at a restaurant that Ian had been to before and loved. The second that we saw it we understood why. It's a small surfers restaurant/hostel and the food was unbelievably good. The music and the vibe were equally as good, so we'll definitely be heading back there sometime once the rainy season finishes!

Grabbing some lunch in Songjeong

Willys "please give me your food" look.

Jason and Ian on the beach.

Even though it looks cloudy, it was actually a really nice day.

We have really appreciated buying our car during this time of year as already we've had so many adventures that we never would have had without it...and the best part is that Willy gets to come along on all of our adventures with us and just like most dogs he loves sticking his head out the window!

We've also been pretty busy finalising our plans for our legal ceremony in Ireland this summer. Ian made up some beautiful invitations for us and as the time gets closer we are both getting excited about it and can't believe that we are soon going to be husband and wife!

Our invitations all ready to be sent.

But now the rainy season has begun which means more rain and clouds than sun for the next couple of weeks. But it also brings a bit of coolness to the air. This past weekend we met our friends Derek, Amy and Matt up by a waterfall near our town. It was raining but that didn't stop the guys and the dogs from getting into the creek and enjoying the water. Willy is getting so much more confident in the water as time goes on!

The waterfall in Jangyu.

The majestic Plato had the time of his life swimming.

We are off to Ireland in three weeks time and I can't wait to update you all on the little adventures we'll be taking while there.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Destination Wedding?!

Since we got engaged on Christmas day we had begun thinking about wedding details. There were two things that we both knew. The first was that we didn't want a long engagement and secondly we didn't want to spend a lot of money on a wedding.

My beautiful ring.

I understand why some people like to spend crazy amounts of money on a wedding but for us, our life together is much more important and at the end of the day, it's just one day out of your entire life!

My family <3

So initially we thought that we would do a small legal ceremony in Ireland and then a year later when we arrived in America we would have a backyard wedding in Jasons sisters garden. This is what we told people and all of our Irish friends and family were beginning to plan their trips to America. Once we got back to Korea after our holiday in Ireland we started looking in to it a lot more. We found that the little ceremony in Ireland would cost about $3,000 alone and then the more we looked in to having a backyard wedding we realised that we wouldn't be able to do it for less than $10,000. This scared the crap out of both of us! Neither of us would want to begin our life in America together with no savings. So we began to get stressed, really stressed! Until one day we finally made the decision that seemed to fit us so perfectly but had never realised...a destination wedding!

Initially we considered going to the Maldives just the two of us, but after researching places to stay, it would have still cost us about $10,000 for a week there. So we started to look at South East Asia, an area that we both love. We had researched Bali (they have amazing places to stay for very cheap), Philippines (direct flights from Korea, it's a country I've always wanted to see and beautiful beaches), Borneo (our first holiday together was here and it's a place that we both LOVE!) and we even got in contact with a hotel in Burma!

Finally we chose the destination...The Philippines!
We chose it because Jason has been before and absolutely loved it there, I've always wanted to go and well, there are 1,000's of beaches to choose from! Once we had decided on the country, we began looking at places within the country. Now as some of you may know the Philippines is HUGE! I think ideally we would have chosen a place that was off of the tourist trail but once we told a few friends they had told us that they wanted to come. Our wonderful friend from Mark Jones photography also offered his services for our photos so we had to think about what would be easiest for people to get to and the funny thing is that we chose the most touristy island of The Philippines…Boracay!

Once we knew where we wanted to get married we then had to try to find a resort. This involved me scouring the internet and sending e-mails to many places. We couldn't find anywhere that was just right until one day I had given up hope and decided to go on google maps and search Boracay. Google maps has pins of some hotels on it so I went through the whole island until I found one resort that I hadn't heard of before, Asya Premier Suites. After searching it online I immediately fell in love with it, I showed it to Jason and he did too. At that point we knew that this was the place!

The pool at Asya 

A photo from one of their weddings.

And again.

So I sent them a message and got no reply, sent another one and still no reply. Normally I'd have given up but this was THE place! So I sent a bit of a snarky message the third time and I got a reply. We found out all of the information and found that it was indeed perfect for us!
We have now sent in our deposit and officially booked our date. We'll be having our wedding on January 6th and can't wait!
I'm sure that you'll probably be hearing more about it as the date gets nearer :)

Here are some engagement photos that our wonderful friends Mark and Ian from Wooly & Jones photography took for us. They are extremely talented and are based  here in South Korea. They will also be shooting for our wedding so we are unbelievably excited for that!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Korean road trip!

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to have a 4 day weekend here in Korea as the Monday was Childrens day and the Tuesday was Buddhas birthday. Also the Thursday before was a day off too because it was Labour day. That Thursday myself, Jason and our friend Ian went in to Busan to make a Costco trip. Costco is this amazing American wholesale store that sells many foreign products that you can't find anywhere else in Korea. We stocked up for the road trip that we'd be taking for the long weekend.

We didn't really have any plan as to where to go, all we knew was that we would drive up along the East coast, find a nice beach and set up camp. We had decided to wait until Sunday because no doubt the roads would be crazy busy on the Saturday. We were right, they were crazy busy, but they weren't much better on Sunday either. We ended up in a huge traffic jam all the way up to Ulsan. From Ulsan we decided to take the coastal route and look out for some nice beaches. I have to admit that we were a bit disappointed at the beginning. Every beach that we saw was littered and if they weren't littered then there were a ton of people already camping there...not our idea of fun camping!

Myself and Willy in the car. (Willy's not a fan of selfies)

We had been driving for about three hours when we finally came across a beach that looked quite nice. We got out for a closer look and found that it didn't have too much litter on it and there were only about 6 or 7 other tents pitched on it.

The beach that we chose.

We unloaded our stuff and set our tent up away from the other campers. Also I must add that Willy was with us too. This was only his second time on a beach and would be his first time camping! After we were all set up we decided to take a walk along the beach.

Jason preparing the campsite.

All done! (Willy's chilling in the background)

Taking a walk.

The beach. (maybe Najeong beach…near Gampo anyway)

Jason skimming stones, Willy scavenging for food.

Once we got back we cooked some dinner and were having a nice relaxing time when all of a sudden a huge family comes along and props their tent up right next to us! We were quite pissed about this as they were really loud, so made the decision to pick up and move everything to a spot further down the beach away from everyone decision ever! We spent the rest of the evening just relaxing and drinking some beer (Jason) and cider (me).

Jason cooking burgers.

There were a few patrols along the beach while we were there.

Getting settled in.

Later in the night it started getting windy so we decided to get in to the tent. Willy was a little scared at this point as the wind was blowing our tent and there were people up along the beach setting off fireworks but he managed to get in to my sleeping bag and cuddle up with my feet and was content staying there for the night.

Willy and Jason in the tent, Willy was a little scared at this point.

Before he found the loveliness of the inside of my sleeping bag.

After a restless sleep we woke up at about 6am. I opened the tent to let Willy out to do his business. It was so nice being able to trust him off leash. A year ago we could never have done that but now he knows to never go too far from us.

Willy on the beach bright and early.

Unfortunately that morning the wind was still pretty bad and started blowing our tent down completely, and broke one of the rods in the process. We were tired and frustrated at this point so we packed everything up and put it back in the car, then bought some snacks and enjoyed some alcoholic beverages on the beach at about 9am.

We then decided to make the trip back home stopping for some delicious duck and some photos at a beautiful temple along the way.

The beautiful temple near the beach that we stayed at.

It also had this huge gold Buddha statue.

It was an amazing weekend and definitely one to remember! We are already planning our next camping trip :)