A Travellerspoint blog

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

sunny 32 °C

hi everyone. hope you are all well. I just thought I'd give a quick update on my movements, which have unfortunately been very limited this week. The aerial surveys that were meant for tuesday have been pushed back to friday now, which has meant a very slow week of office work. My administrative skills are now tip-top, however. There is quite a lot of work to be done for a workshop that MRF are hosting on TEDs (turtle excluder device) at the end of September. About 100 people in various fisheries departments, NGOs, government etc etc are invited to attend and the idea will be to highlight the work that we do over the next few weeks as well as the work done in the past. The end result being that hopefully the state will make TEDs mandatory for all fishing vessels in Malaysian waters, but we will have to wait and see. It's a great shame that I won't be able to attend this though, as we have very important presentations to give back in York that many people are flying half way across the world to listen to (and give their own)! So yeh, this week has been writing and sending out invitations to people and soon we will start to put together some kind of schedule I'm sure.

Sunday we nipped across to Manukan Island for the day- around KK there are a few islands, some bigger than others and you just jump on a little boat thing at the harbour and zip across, takes about 20 minutes. They pick you up at 4pm also. So we went to have a look at Manukan, which is the 2nd largest, although much smaller than the largest, Gaya. There's a sort of eco-resort on the island and facilities and stuff, which is quite useful. Some of the smaller islands don't have anything, which I definitely want to check out in the next few weeks, although apparently the snorkelling isn't as good. All the islands are part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (or TARP as it's known), which you have to pay a fair whack to get into- I think the visitor fee works out at about £5 if you're just going for the chill or £10 if you're diving. Which is quite a lot, especially if you're going there a few times. I've got to say considering the user fee and the fact it's been protected for 40 years, the patch of reef we saw wasn't in good shape. Littered with fragmented coral and really low coverage. It looked a bit of a bomb site to be honest. I think it probably used to be blast fished by the state of it, but not sure. Not a great deal of recovery anyway. Saying that, there were some nice outcrops of coral and some cool marine life. Very different to Egypt anyway- loads of starfish and suprisingly a lot of sea cucumbers too. Saw a massive puffer hiding under a table coral which was cool also. But yeh the water was so warm, we just swam around most of the day enjoying the sea. The sun was out all day too so managed to top up the tan (although that took a couple of days, after the pink changed colour).

Since sunday just been working in the day and chilling out at night. There is a german girl and a guy from the UK who are here the same amount of time as us volunteering for a different organisation, so that is really good. Definitely helps seeing at least a couple of the same faces around, otherwise the people are just changing all the time and you end up having the same boring introductory conversations all the time! They're cool guys too, so spent a fair whack of time with them. Got up early in the morning last night to watch the Germany game, which she was understandably gutted about.I'm glad they're out now though and we're all in the same boat.

Anyway i'm up at 6am tomorrow to get the helicopter up to Kudat where we're going to be based for the best part of a week I guess, maybe a couple of days less. First 3/4 days we're going to be doing the aerial surveys of leatherbacks and dugongs and then starting to prep for the TED project, which is going to be run up there. Going to meet some of the fishermen and try and chat with them, although this is going to be nigh on impossible. I've got to learn how to fit the TED on the net, which will be interesting also. Had to put my diving back a couple of weeks also, which isn't ideal, but no real problem. Not sure if i'll get the internet up there, but will update when I next can. x

P.S. attached some photos from the island on the bottom and trying to keep my grammar as good as possible, but realise I keep making mistakes. Apologies if it hurts the eyes occasionally but can't be bothered to proof read it! And one last thing- that video I spoke about is at the bottom- some of you MEMs might have seen it, it's older than I realised. well worth a viewing though

P.P.S. For Luke- sorry mate. MRF is the Marine Research Foundation- the organisation I'm working for and MEM is Marine Environmental Management- my course at uni! As for NGO- google it, spaz.


Posted by mburgass 18:09 Archived in Malaysia Tagged events Comments (2)

Don't drink and dance, drink and drive

overcast 30 °C

Good evening all. It's 7.30pm here and I thought I'd give a quick update while I have some time, before watching the Argentina-Germany game later. Since I last wrote, things have been very relaxed and have just been settling in really. The first two nights I had I slept absolutely terribly even though I was incredibly tired- got to sleep no problem but both nights woke in the early hours for no reason and I just lay there awake until it was time to get up- I'm attributing it to jetlag but hopefully I'm over that by now. Thursday and Friday we spent in the office, reading up on on TEDs as well as checking out reports that MRF have produced and what they've been up to for the last couple of years. They've been doing some pretty cool research and Nick clearly is an important guy. Looking at the schedule on the white board in the office, he's off around the world all the time to places like Abu Dhabi, Australia, California, Philippines etc etc. It looks like he spends more time abroad than he does in KK. Should be able to pick up a lot of knowledge from him- he clearly knows his stuff and is very passionate about the work he does, which is great. I've got a copy of this great video that has been made all about problems in the oceans- much like all the other ones we've seen before but there is some awesome videography and definitely worth a watch. I might upload it but it's huge and not sure about distribution rights. There's another one about TEDs also, which you can't watch as I'm going to save it for my presentation! :P

So KK itself- well it's a rather interesting place. It's pretty small, I'd say not much bigger than York to be honest. I'm slowly appreciating just how obsessed with food Malaysian people are. Lunch time is 12 o'clock almost on the dot and most people eat again straight after work at 5. Instead of saying "how are you?" it is much more common to be asked "have you eaten?". The vast amount of food shops give huge choice and the main cuisines are Malaysian, Vietnamese, Thai and Indian. Most food places only do one type of dish and that is their speciality- so you end up deciding what you want to eat before you decide where you want to eat, which is quite the reverse of what we're used to. I've sampled a few different things so far- All meat is cooked and served on the bone, which means it was slightly disconcerting when you get your chicken thigh with a very bloody looking bone served to you. Still, I didn't want to be rude, so ate it anyway. If they eat it, then I'll eat. Trying to mostly brave with food stuffs- although the dish of BBQ chicken anus, I might pass on for the time being. The national drink is called something that I can't remember but translates to english as "pulled tea". It's basically a cold cup of english tea served with milk and a lot of sugar, served over ice. I'd rate it as OK but not something I'm going to rush to buy. If you want to know what it tastes like, please make it yourself back home. It's literally like I described it.

After work on thursday we went up to the closest beach in Mel's car. It's quite cool, but a bit dirty. There's loads of people selling fresh fruit so I bought some "Jumbo" as it's called- basically an apple-watermelon cross kind of thing, if that's possible and they put this weird salty, sour powder on it. That basically ruined it completely, but the bit at the bottom without any on was very nice! Thousands of little crabs inhabit the beach, which retreat down tiny holes in the sand when you go near. They are sort of like fiddler crabs I guess, they roll the sand into little balls, but they don't have the one big claw, so not sure what they are. The water is absolutely boiling also- never experienced anything like it. It's like a bath- it might even tempt you in dad!

Anyway, on to last night. Me and Gill were invited out with Mel and her friends to watch the Brazil-Netherlands game and then go out afterwards. After two nights of rubbish sleep I really didn't fancy going out after but was definitely up for the game. We went to Times Square in KK which is like a cool new area with loads of bars and clubs and outside seating and big screens. Was a perfect place to watch the world cup. The annoying thing about Malaysia is that it doesn't have any of its own brewed beer for some reason. So instead I had to settle down with a Heineken, much to my dissatisfaction. Anyway we met all of Mel's friends- there were probably about 15 of us there. All really cool people- they were so friendly and genuine and were pleased to have us there. A lot of them had studied abroad and all speak fluent english and talk to each other in english, which made things really easy. I couldn't say no to carry on staying out after a couple of beers and great chat. We headed to a club called the white room, which was pretty cool. At first, I've got to say it was hilarious and totally surreal. A live band were playing all sorts of music from the Black Eyed Peas to Evanescence to a totally varied audience of ranging from all different ages. The women were mostly scantily dressed to say the least. If you think Nottingham on a saturday night is bad- you should have seen this place! Anyway, a couple of bottles of apple vodka were bought which came with a bucket of ice, jugs of orange juice and a bloke who stood there all night mixing your drinks for you. Bizarre. I'd only had a couple of beers and I thought if I was going to survive this place I needed to step it up a bit, so I had my fair share of the vodka. The band were pretty cool after a few glasses and a few chins up and before you I knew it me and Gill, being the only white faces in the whole room were reluctantly dragged up on stage to dance. I'm not really one for dancing with a room full of Malaysians watching me and I was trying my best to not be the stiff British guy! But literally after about 1 minute of being up there 3 guys came charging through the room and bounded up onto the stage greeting us with hugs and more dancing. They were from Scotland and loving the effort decided to join in, which was just hilarious and also slightly heart-warming at the same time. Needless to say the faces around the room were quite a picture when we decided to get down. After that I just carried on drinking and chatting- the live band finished and resident DJs Kevin Na and Tongchai Jaidee hit the stage (that one's for you golf fans) and the music became trancy and weird- That pretentious shit that clears the dance floor. And when Uruguay-Ghana came on at 2.30am, that was literally the case. We watched some of the game unfold before heading off. Oh yeh, that brings me to the title of this post. I was told to take my drink off the dancefloor when I was up there because you aren't allowed to have glass on the dance floor- I guess this happens in some places in the UK, but still, it's a shit rule and I reluctantly agreed. Anyway as we left the club, with most other people, much to my surprise everyone piled into their cars and drove home. Apparently this is very common and everyone does it (Don't worry though everyone we were in walking distance!). Traffic laws are interesting in Malaysia, it's not the worst driving I've seen but it's pretty bad. To take your test you do it with a policeman and to pass the test you bribe him about 50 ringgits (£10). This is totally common- no bribe, no pass. Driving skill is irrelevant.

I've been blabbing on for ages now so going to stop as I intend to keep these as short as possible so you don't all get bored. But yeh all is going well- and settling in fine. Off out to watch the match with some people from the hostel now and off to an island tomorrow. Got my advanced open water course booked for next weekend and I think I'll be doing my rescue diver at some point after that. Going up in the plane on tuesday to go dugong spotting also, so will have lots to report on soon.

One last thing- I was in the bathroom earlier and got talking to these two Australian girls, who can't have been much older than 18. They'd be trekking up Mount Kinabalu today, when they were confronted by an angry squirrel. They tried to get round it and one of them attempted to shepherd it out the way, something which it was not pleased about. So....it bit her. Yes, this girl was attacked and bitten by a squirrel. Probably the greatest story I have heard in some time. They had to abort the climb to go to hospital and get a load of jabs. Classic.

Much love, speak soon x

Posted by mburgass 18:29 Archived in Malaysia Tagged events Comments (2)

The beginning

rain 30 °C

26 hours after leaving the Old Mill with a very fragile mother, I have arrived in KK. The journey was indeed long and somewhat cumbersome although it did have it its highlights. Anyone who doesn't like travelling long haul is quite frankly stupid- a selection of fine movies (I managed to watch From Paris With Love, Invictus, Shutter Island, Valentine's Day (light relief!), The Office, Premier League Years and to cap it off a 30 minute preview of England's world cup hopes, which was quite frankly, hilarious coupled with decent food and drink, all available without even having to move from the comfort of your seat. Not even the 80 year old indian man and his 4 year old grandson in the seats next to me were going to ruin that, even though I had to change the channels for both of them every time they wanted to watch something else.

I didn't manage to sleep on the plane as that would have wasted valuable entertainment time and so by the time I landed in KL I was pretty much dead to the world. Luckily the wait wasn't too long, and I was soon on the next flight with another meal sat in front of me, this time not so appealing. One flight was quite enough. Managed to have a micronap for about 30 mins before we landed. Melanie, a research fellow at the Marine Research Foundation where I will be based (http://mrf-asia.org) met me at arrivals along with Gillian, a girl from Scotland who is out there doing the same as me. We drove to the hostel so I could drop off my bags and have a quick turn around. Hostel room is decent, £5 a night although don't get much for it. It is airconditioned at least and there are some friendly ants kicking around the place.

I then went up to the offices and met Nick, the guy in charge of the whole operation. He's British and really sound, will definitely be able to get on well with him. He's outlined what we're going to be doing- as well as doing the turtle excluder device project, which is likely to be the main one, we've got 3 other projects. We're on alert with this chartered plane company who could ring us up at any time in the next few days and we're going to go up in the plane looking for Leatherback turtles and doing some counts from the air, which should be slightly if not totally awesome. We're also going to be doing some collection of invertebrates for something (can't remember what in my delusion tired state) but looking forward to diving nonetheless! That will be off a 42 foot 3 cabin catamaran by the way, if you're not jealous enough yet. Finally we're going to be looking at turtle behaviour off nesting beaches in the water, specifically seeing what the males are upto. Which apparently means jumping on turtles off a boat to catch them and sex them which should be fun! I'll be able to explain in more detail when I actually do it.

Anyway, since then we grabbed some lunch which was delicious, there are about a billion places to eat and they all look amazing. It's been hammering it down with rain for the last two hours so just waiting for that to stop now so I can go for a wander. Although all I want to do is sleep really. It's been a long time. 16.00 here at the moment so you're probably all just rising. This is the lovely rainy view from the room large_PC153775.jpg Anyway, I'm going to continue to struggle to stay awake. speak soon x

Posted by mburgass 01:08 Comments (1)

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