Family Gathers

Truly, one of the greatest highlights for us of this whole trip was getting to know our family in Malaysia. They are some of the kindest and most gracious people you could ever meet. From the moment we arrived, we felt right at home surrounded by their warmth and generosity. We gather to enjoy a meal at Stewart and Kim’s home, grateful for the time together.

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Banana Leaf Lunch

After climbing all of the steps at the Batu Caves we have worked up quite an appetite. We go to a restaurant in Bangsar called Nirwana Maju and have the most delicious banana leaf rice lunch. The meal consists of a fresh sheet of banana leaf, rice with usually two or three types of vegetable, choices of curry or dal, and condiments such as deep fried salted chili.

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While it is meant to be a vegetarian dish, you can add meat or fish.

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No silverware required.

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Batu Caves

JUNE 17, 2012
DAY TWELVE

Our first stop of the day is to the Batu Caves. A limestone hill containing a series of caves and cave temples. It is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The biggest, called the Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a 100 meter high ceiling. To reach it, visitors must climb 272 rather steep steps. At the base of the steps stands a 140 foot high statue of Murugan, the Hindu deity.

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234, 235, 236…..

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Inside the Temple Cave.

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And did I mention the monkeys? The Batu Caves are known for their numerous monkeys who greet visitors, sometimes by stealing their food and drinks.

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We linger at the base of the cave, which is quite crowded, but full of interesting sites and people.

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Date Night

JUNE 15, 2012

Thanks to Li Wen and Will as our babysitters, Kim, Stewart, Eric and I are able to go out for a night together. We head to the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai along the western bank of the Huangpu River facing Pudong on the eastern bank.

We eat Spanish food at a wonderful restaurant called El Willy, take pictures on an amazing balcony at M on the Bund, and enjoy drinks at the Glamour Bar. A fun night out!

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Malaysia Bound

JUNE 16, 2012
DAY ELEVEN

Although it is the fifth flight we have been on since our adventure began, excitement builds as we near our next destination: Malaysia. We will be staying at Stewart & Kim’s vacation home just outside of Kuala Lampur in a town called Bangsar.

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When we arrive at the house, we are greeted by Kim’s wonderful family…her siblings, their spouses, their children (our new “cousins”), her mom, and aunt and uncle. They are so warm and kind and welcome us all to Malaysia. We instantly love them! Our time together is precious as we eat and swim and eat and visit and eat:).

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The celebration for Ryan and Kim’s birthdays continues with another delicious cake.

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Return to Shanghai

JUNE 15, 2012
DAY TEN

We say goodbye to Xi’an and board a plane to return to Shanghai. We fly out of a brand new terminal at the airport that had opened only a month earlier. It was built to accommodate the roughly 4 million people who now travel to Xi’an every year to see the wonder of the Terra Cotta warriors.

When we land in Shanghai, we decide to take the Maglev, a magnetic levitation train connecting the Shanghai Pudong International Airport with the outskirts of Pudong. Its top operational speed is 431km/h (268 mph per hour), making it the fastest train in the world.

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There’s a speed indicator in each car.

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Ryan and Zhiming’s interpretation of what it felt like to travel that fast (not really:).

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Everyday is a Good Day

First sculpting, next calligraphy. We all enjoy our private calligraphy lesson learning to write various Chinese characters and well-known Chinese proverbs.

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My favorite…”Everyday is a good day.”

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Our teacher beautifully writes all of our names for us.

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The Warrior Workshop

After visiting the real Terracotta Warriors, we try our hand and at making our own! We travel to a local workshop and get to work…

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Our own little army.

The Terracotta Warriors

JUNE 14, 2012
DAY NINE

The Terracotta Warriors are a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. They were buried with the emperor in 210-209 BC with the purpose of protecting him in the afterlife. The figures were discovered in 1974 by local farmers who were digging a well. There are three pits containing the Terracotta army, and currently it is estimated that there are over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 calvary horses.

The Terracotta Warriors are considered one of the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. The figures are life size, and the warriors and horses are arranged in battle formation. Work on the site is ongoing. It is really AMAZING to see!

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The warrior hospital where they work to piece the figures back together.

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Each warrior is unique, no two are the same. The detail is incredible, down to the sole of the shoes.

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This bronze chariot was also discovered. Note the small size, just right to carry the emperor’s soul in the afterlife.

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The first Terracotta Warrior iPad.

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SMARTE tour made it to the Terracotta Warriors!

Evening in Xi’an

For dinner we eat at a famous dumpling banquet. We sample over 16 different kinds of dumplings, some shaped like their contents.

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After dinner we walk to the Bell Tower, which marks the geographical center of Xi’an. From this important landmark extend streets connecting the tower to the north, south, east and west gates of the City Wall we biked earlier in the day.

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We end our evening with a stroll through the Muslim Quarter. When night falls, the Muslim Quarter is one of the busiest places in Xi’an. It’s a fascinating area where you can find interesting people, exotic food, and great souvenirs. Historically, the Muslim Quarter marks the starting point of the famous Silk Road. During the 8th century AD, Xi’an was the largest city in the world.

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