Please stop.

2 02 2015

hand over

“Comments please!”

“For sale!!”*

How many photos have you seen, just like this, which ask for comments or offer the rabbit for sale?  (If you’re on Facebook or peruse rabbit breeder websites, the answer is, “a lot.”)  Our non-rabbit friends and significant others see these and ask, “Why do you hold your hands over their heads?”

That’s actually a very good question, and the answer is, “because someone, somewhere, started an extremely bad habit.”

Many of us use the Internet to post photos of our rabbits, sometimes just to display what we’re proud of, other times to learn, or to market our stock.  These aren’t bad things, but we always have to remember that a photo of a rabbit is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object.  A brag is a brag, it’s never bad.  Critiques and sales are different, though, in that the information presented by a photo is incomplete.  Some people don’t have access to shows or knowledgeable mentors and, while those things are a better choice, have to rely on the internet.  Others prefer to pre-sell rabbits via photo, such is their choice and right as is yours not to participate if you prefer to buy hands-on.  For the purposes of this, let’s presume that a photo can give you some information for a critique, and can allow you to determine whether or not a sale rabbit warrants further attention.  But I maintain that in either scenario, the photographer should try to present as much information as possible, and this type of photo just doesn’t cut it.

It’s most common in commercial breeds and in compact breeds who don’t pose with a higher head mount and a stance requiring the rabbit to rest lightly on the front feet.  It seems to be an attempt to show that the rabbit has a good topline, and while this is important, it’s hardly the only measure of type or good type.

I’m betting you that, if I posted this, I’d get some, “good type,” comments on this junior doe.  (My rabbit, my hand)

Really?

Well, she does seem to have a good topline in this photo.  Her rear feet seem to be somewhere in the vicinity of her stifle (this coordinates to the knee joint in humans, and a rabbit’s rear toes should align with it) and her front feet are in the general eye region.  But friends, there’s a lot missing.

Let’s start with depth.  She does appear to have good depth in this photo, but length, depth and width in rabbits are relative.  With my hand pushing her shoulder, it’s hard to tell if she has a correct, short coupled body.  She might, or I might be covering up a long shoulder, a low shoulder with a late start, a narrow shoulder ruining the tapered side lines, or even a hooked spine.  And width?  She could be narrow as a snake, there’s nothing to indicate this one way or another.

Dutch do have more points in front of the shoulder than many other breeds, I’ll elaborate on that later, but there are also a lot of typing clues missing by obliterating the head and ears.  The Dutch standard calls for a well rounded head, stocky ears, and medium bone.  There’s not much here to indicate bone, but if you’ve handled a lot of rabbits you’ve probably noticed that better bone tends to go along with a rounder head and a stockier ear.  She could have all of this, or she could have a narrow, weaselly head, thin ears, and fine bone.  It doesn’t end there, as rabbits with longer heads and ears and finer bone have a tendency to be longer and narrower in body.  There’s also no way to tell if she’s full in the lower hindquarter or if she has correct muscling over the spine and hips.  She could very well be pinched and pinny for all we really know.

So what do we really know about the type of this rabbit from the photo?  That she can be made to look like she has a good topline.  That’s it.

Each breed has its own point distribution, and Dutch place half of these on markings (with nearly half of that being above the shoulder) making this even more heinous.  While we encourage breeders to focus on type first, markings are helpful in determining show potential in culling and to make sure we’re correcting or at least not cementing common faults when buying brood stock.  What can you tell of this rabbit?  Absolutely nothing of her blaze, cheeks, neck and undercut.  She has stops, although their length can’t be assessed as the whole foot isn’t seen.  1/3 the length of what?  The only marking visible is a little less than half a saddle.  With the saddle worth 10 points, let’s say we can give her 4 for this part being well placed and a little crooked (or is her fur just ruffled?).  With the markings carrying a total of 50 points, we can assess 5 and give 4…that’s 8% of the total marking value that can even be evaluated.  Is that enough for you?

Other breeds place a lot of emphasis on color or fur.  Color is highly subject to distortion in the light.  This is a black doe, but on this table under these lights, I can make a dark blue appear almost black.  Natural diffuse (cloudy) light is the most accurate, but again not all computer screens register color identically.  (Try shopping for clothes on a laptop vs. a desktop.)  And fur?  You might be able to see some sheen and luster, but length and texture aren’t likely.

Most of us wouldn’t want to go on a blind date with a person who had a paper bag on their head, so don’t do your rabbits the same injustice.  We’ve all developed bad habits and somewhere along the line, we’ve all succumbed to bad information.  Using hand over the head photos to solicit culling advice or to buy or sell rabbits just isn’t wise.  If you don’t feel your rabbits look good enough in hands-off photos, I would suggest you enjoy posting your brag photos and solicit feedback and make sales in person.

no

*She’s not for sale.  Sorry.  I actually quite like her, next appearance NDS.

Edit 12:55 PM 2/3/15:  This seems to be going a bit viral, at least in the rabbit community.  Wow!  There also seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding.  This post has nothing to do with posing rabbits during judging or for your own evaluation.  As I stated, when you have your hands on a rabbit you not only get a three-dimensional view but you’re able to feel it as well.  This is a significant amount of information that is lost in a two-dimensional photo, and to remove even more by putting a hand over the head leaves you with something of very little use in evaluating and especially purchasing.





Mr. Jimmy

19 05 2014

This is the story of my 2013 National Dutch Show BOS win, as submitted for the Dutch Reporter.

Mr. Jimmy first attracted attention last October by being found one morning with his head stuck in the hole cut for a J-feeder at our state show in Hutchinson.  Even before he was old enough to be competitive he was determined to make people talk about him.  Some quick-thinking friends cut him out and he shook it off and went on.  All along the way, this buck’s story has been one of friendship and teamwork and it was very special to be able to celebrate his win with some of the many people who had a hand in his success.

I normally stop breeding in late May thanks to our often-brutal summers.  2013 was mild so I took a gamble and bred for a blue litter in August.  The sire was a buck named Stroke of Midnight whom I raised as a partnership with Jessie Showalter of Oklahoma.  We’d bred Jessie’s blue doe Sophie to my blue herdsire Midnight Rambler one spring and the first litter was quite a success.  Jessie kept the pick who won a Best in Show for her, and a pair I took from the cross both placed in the top 10 at the 2009 Convention.  I had planned to keep one, but sold them both when we decided to try again.  Sophie came to my house during the winter of 2009 and kindled another Midnight litter on New Year’s Eve.  Again I’d planned to keep one, but friends came calling and I eventually sold the buck and doe I’d kept.  The buck, Stroke of Midnight, went to Anthony Campbell in Arizona.  He had some marking flaws but had both a smooth, deep body and a very masculine head and bone, a combination that isn’t easy to put on a single rabbit.  When Anthony downsized in 2012 he offered him back and I said, “yes!” in a heartbeat!

The dam was another rabbit who took a long route to my barn.  Siren was raised by Gene Knieling, a daughter of his buck Satisfaction who was BOSV at the 2010 NDS, and went back to a blue buck from my lines, a Midnight son who had produced very well for him.  She placed 2nd at the 2011 NDS to my eventual BOV winner Merry (that love-her-or-hate-her doe who I think is the best I’ve raised but who was accused of everything from being “too deep” to “satinized”) and was purchased by Sara Amelse of Wisconsin.  Sara later got out of Dutch and sent Siren to me.

That August litter gave me some up-and-coming juniors for the late fall/early winter shows and “Mr. Jimmy,” named for a character in a Stones song, took off with a BOB win at a big show in Iowa on Thanksgiving weekend and a sweep of the Missouri State Dutch shows in early December.  He continued to mature and started off the spring show season with a RIS win at a Kansas show in February, just a few days after turning senior.

RIS win in Abilene

RIS win in Abilene

It wasn’t long after that the rabbit world was saddened by the cancer diagnosis of Dee Ann Burkhalter.  “Wade’s Mom,” as she’s known, is a wonderfully kind and generous woman who I’d known since my days as a youth breeder.  One afternoon I received a text from Randy Shumaker saying he was working to put together a benefit auction to help offset her medical expenses and asking if I would donate a rabbit.  He listed breeders from whom he’d secured donations and the names made my jaw drop: these were the best of the best, many were Convention BIS winners and all were hugely influential breeders.  Despite a feeling of, “I’m not worthy!”  I said, “yes” in an instant, then in a few moments settled on this buck.  He was a package deal: a flashy show rabbit, he had herd buck potential and a pedigree full of consistent winners.  I hoped he’d make for an attractive item!

In the weeks between the commitment and the beginning of the auction, Jimmy got better and better.  He took BIS in one show and Best 4 Class in the other at a double show in Iowa with a large Dutch entry and began to attract attention.  As thrilled as I was by the wins, I was even more excited that this would increase his value.

A little more filled out, after his wins in Grinnell

A little more filled out, after his wins in Grinnell

I wondered who would purchase him and hoped it would be someone who would use and appreciate him.  Meanwhile, I started breeding him to most every black or blue doe in the barn.  Does bred to him palpated positive, and I entered him at NDS.

His auction photos, this was a trick since he never liked to sit still!

His auction photos, this was a trick since he never liked to sit still!

As it turned out, my good friend Lisa Wittrock won him for a generous donation of $1150.  Dakotah Gould put in the last bid by proxy since Lisa wasn’t near a computer when the auction ended.  I was thrilled with how much he’d raised, and that he was going to the kind of person I’d hoped would win him.

The spring weather started its ups and downs but he held his coat and like most of my bucks, started to hit his peak at 8 months.  I spent a week on a judging trip in Malaysia just before NDS so all care and conditioning was left to my mom.  She raises Mini Rex, feeds for me regularly, and always follows instructions, but it’s still not the same as being there myself.  His first litters were born while I was overseas and I was happy to see several marked babies in each box.  I returned to find out he’d started to get a little “bucky,” and stained his coat, but I was able to clean him up.  He was slick and solid as we packed up Thursday morning with high hopes.  Lisa finally got to see her new purchase early Friday morning and much to my relief, loved him.

Among other things, rabbits are a competitive outlet for me, so I can’t stay away from the judging table.  Some hate the anticipation but it’s my favorite part, especially at a National show.   As much as I love judging, I’m a breeder first.  Lisa and I watched the class and were excited when he won.  I thought he had a good shot at variety, but after that I knew the competition from Val’s black buck and Kristy’s gray would be tough.  Kristy’s buck “Rusty,” had beaten him the night before in the Champion of Champions fun class.  As part of the show committee, I was the one to open the ballots for BOS, and although I knew, it didn’t really sink in until the announcements were made.  Reaching this goal was thrilling, but celebrating with friends who were nearly as excited as myself was the best part!   (I don’t have rights to the BOS photo, but you can see it at the bottom of the page here)

On Sunday morning he was Lisa’s rabbit.  It was a little hard to say goodbye, but with litters in the box and his parents bred again, I feel confident that I can keep his best traits in the barn.

Secure and ready to go to his new home in Washington

Ready to go to his new home in Washington

This is the second year in a row that my partnership with Gene Knieling has resulted in a big win.  We show the torts together, but our black and blue herds are also so closely intertwined that a win for one is a win for both.  Gene’s influence has been there since the beginning of this herd in 2006 after losing all but two of my original herd in a barn fire.  The black buck I was able to save, Bing, was sired by a buck Gene owned.  Bing is behind every National or Best in Show winner I’ve raised since, usually more than once.  A blue grandson, Storm, went to Gene as his herd buck and is behind many of his winners including the 2013 NDS BOB.  Although we only see each other’s rabbits and trade at National shows, we speak the same language when it comes to Dutch and can come up with the missing pieces each other needs along with affirming decisions to keep or cull in the meantime.  I’m very independent and decisive, but it’s very difficult to isolate oneself in this hobby and become or remain competitive.  Working with Gene has definitely pushed me forward and I’m grateful for that and our friendship.

I’m also grateful to the Showalter family for the breeding that resulted in Jimmy’s sire.  I met them when Jessie was just little, and they are some of the kindest, most genuine and appreciative people in the hobby.  We’ve traded back and forth for a few years now and have even remained friends through several seasons of K-State and OSU games!

And finally, thank you to Lisa for her generous donation to Dee Ann.  I don’t know that any rabbit is worth that much, but it has been heartwarming to see the rabbit world come together to support one of their own, and it was very touching to be able to help raise that kind of support.

As I write this, Jimmy’s first two litters are just bouncing out of the box.  There are beautifully marked babies in both.  Six more are opening their eyes, and three more are due in during the coming weeks. Hopefully he’ll have many offspring from Kansas and Washington in Fort Worth. My fingers are crossed that this is just the beginning of his story!

 





Malaysia 2014: Day 5

15 05 2014

My last full day in Malaysia was the show, exactly opposite from my last trip in which I began with the show!  It was held at The School by Jaya One, which is not a school as we would think of it, but rather Malaysia’s first “enrichment mall.”  The show was a culmination of a four-weekend long event promoting rabbits as pets and show animals.  The mall sponsored the show as well as my travel expenses.  Along with the show, there was a rabbit petting zoo that allowed children to play with rabbits (5 minutes each, and the rabbits rotated in and out and given frequent breaks), a costume contest, crafts and snacks.  It was quite an event!  You can read an English article in a Malaysian newspaper that describes the event.

Rabbits entered in the show in display-type cages

Rabbits entered in the show in display-type cages

The show table

The show table

List of breeds present in judging order

List of breeds present in judging order

The awards table

The awards table

Rabbit petting zoo

Rabbit petting zoo

Another view of the petting zoo

Another view of the petting zoo

Arie and I judged the costume contest as our first task.  There were a LOT of participants and they went all out!

Costume contest participants

Arie and the costume contest participants

Our winner, a potty-training junior

Our winner, a potty-training junior.  She actually sat on the potty much of the time.

Second was this sassy girl, who proudly showed off her hat

Second was this sassy girl, who proudly showed off her hat

And our Sailor Girl was third

And our Sailor Girl was third

After this, the all-breed judging began.  I’m often asked “what are the rabbits like in Malaysia,” and the answer is that the majority are or are descended from American imports (and some European imports in the case of Dwarfs).  Overall the quality was very good.  It was a noticeable improvement from last year, as it should be!  It can take rabbits a generation or two to adjust to reaching and holding prime condition in a very different climate than that in which they were born, so perseverance does pay off!  It was clear that the American breeders had sent quality rabbits, the American judges had given constructive feedback, and the Malaysian breeders had taken that to heart.  As a judge, this makes me very happy!  There were several rabbits that were very good quality representatives of their breed, and I took photos of those who posed for them!

BOB Dutch.  Yes, this is from my line, all of the Dutch shown were descended from a trio I sold and/or a pair I housed before sending last year.  This buck had a fantastic body and herd buck potential!

BOB Dutch. Yes, this is from my line, all of the Dutch shown were descended from a trio I sold and/or a pair I housed before sending last year. This buck had a fantastic body and herd buck potential!

A very well-balanced little Dwarf Hotot who would be competitive in the US

A very well-balanced little Dwarf Hotot who would be competitive in the US

Midway through judging we broke for lunch, I had a couple of favorites.

Dragonfruit juice

Dragonfruit juice

Nasi goreng (fried rice).  Are you learning some food words?  They're most of what I have picked up.  Nasi (rice), goreng (fried), and ayam (chicken) are words that will get you a long way!

Nasi goreng (fried rice). Are you learning some food words? They’re most of what I have picked up. Nasi (rice), goreng (fried), and ayam (chicken) are words that will get you a long way!

A lovely Holland Lop

A lovely Holland Lop

Part of the Mini Rex lineup

Part of the Mini Rex lineup

Best in Show and Reserve in Show were both won by Beh and Yo.  BIS was a CN Netherland Dwarf doe, and RIS was a homebred English Lop.

Best in Show and Reserve in Show were both won by Beh and Yo. BIS was a CN Netherland Dwarf doe, and RIS was a homebred English Lop.

As owners and breeders Beh and Yo were helping to run the show, they had lots of help showing the English Lops, who seem to have a dedicated fan base!  Many of the rabbits who win top honors are imports, so everyone seemed excited that a rabbit raised in Malaysia was a top contender.  It was nice to see such a display of sportsmanship!

After the show, we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant where the dishes were served family-style.  Is it similar to Chinese food served in America?  No, not at all!  It seems to be a cuisine that is very open to local interpretation!

Chinese dinner

Chinese dinner

My calves were still a bit sore from the stair-climbing adventures, so after the show Sook Chin took me for a foot massage.  It was wonderful!  The predominant type of massage is Thai, and it’s definitely different from Swedish massage back home.  Unlike the US, where a majority of massage therapists are female, every therapist I saw was male.  Some of the same techniques were used, but others were different and much more active than Swedish massage.  It was a little painful due to the soreness, but it helped.  The last five minutes or so were a shoulder and neck massage, and while the techniques were much different (seated and clothed vs. lying down and draped, lifted up by my arms rather than lying passively) I swear it did more in five minutes to loosen up my neck and shoulders than Swedish massage can do in half an hour!  It was a wonderfully relaxing end to the day!

I’d sleep in the next morning and then begin the trip back.  My itinerary had me overnight in Los Angeles, which was a wonderful break with a good night’s sleep in an actual bed!  It was good to arrive home well-rested and with my body on a somewhat local time, since setup for the National Dutch Show began just 36 hours later!

 





Malaysia 2014: Day 4

15 05 2014

This was our last day in Langkawi, so we woke up and packed for the airport, but did a little more sightseeing before we left.  Our first stop was a quick peek at the Rice Garden Museum.  Kedah, the state that Langkawi belongs to, is a top rice producer for Malaysia.

Rice growing in a marshy paddy

Rice growing in a marshy paddy

The rice paddy and it's caretaker

The rice paddy and it’s caretaker

Rice, rice, rice!

Rice, rice, rice!

Then we stopped for breakfast.  How I miss Malaysian breakfasts!

Another take on the roti pisang (banana pancake)

Another take on the roti pisang (banana pancake)

Fresh watermelon juice

Fresh watermelon juice

Then we stopped at Eagle Square.

The giant eagle statue, a symbol of Langkawi

The giant eagle statue, a symbol of Langkawi

Before we entered the airport, we stopped at a roadside stand for laksa and cendol.  Laksa is a fish noodle soup, the flavor of the fish is mild and sort of like tuna.  Cendol is a dessert soup and one of my favorites!  It’s made of ice and coconut milk with brown sugar, red beans, bean sprouts and corn.  Yes, I realize that sounds weird to Americans, but it’s delicious!  The stand was on a strip of beach alongside a road that separated the ocean from the runway.

The setup, with tables and chairs right on the beach!

The setup, with tables and chairs right on the beach!

Coconut to drink, I miss these, too!

Coconut to drink, I miss these, too!

Laksa, with a hard-boiled egg at the top

Laksa, with a hard-boiled egg at the top

Yummy cendol

Yummy cendol

The view from our lunch table.  Just left of center you'll see a steep rise in the mountains.  This is where the cable car is located, so sometimes it is in the clouds!

The view from our lunch table. Just left of center you’ll see a steep rise in the mountains. This is where the cable car is located, so sometimes it is in the clouds!

The flight back to KL took about an hour, and was a little rough but had great views!  On the way back from the airport we stopped at a travel station and had lunch again.  I wasn’t arguing.  Travel stops are sort of like food courts, with a large assortment of vendors and items, and the usual facilities.

Food stalls

Food stalls

Nasi ayam, or chicken and rice with soup.  Very good!

Nasi ayam, or chicken and rice with soup. Very good!

More cendol, this time with ice cream.  Even better!

More cendol, this time with ice cream. Even better!

If you’ve paid attention (and admittedly it took me a while to pick up on this), you’ll notice that other than straws, you haven’t seen any disposable tableware.  Even inexpensive restaurants, street vendors and travel stops use real plates and metal silverware.  It’s a little more labor intensive, but SO much better for the environment than our overflowing trash cans full of paper, Styrofoam and plastic!

After lunch Arie and I checked into the hotel in KL and were soon picked up by our friend Sook Chin for dinner.  We were joined by a fun group of girls for an Indian dinner.

Banana leaves for plates

Banana leaves for plates

Dinner came with a set list of sides, and then meat or vegetable dishes added in.

Dinner came with a set list of sides, and then meat or vegetable dishes added in.

My plate skipped the cucumber side, but I had green beans, dried peppers, along with rice and a vegetable curry topping.

My plate skipped the cucumber side, but I had green beans, dried peppers, along with rice and a vegetable curry topping.

This cuisine is often eaten by hand, with bits of several dishes gathered, formed into a bite with rice, and eaten.  It’s trickier than you’d think!  The secret to keeping your fingers from getting completely dirty is to only use your fingertips, but it’s difficult.  I ended up with most of the nails on my right hand stained curry yellow!

After this we went for a girl’s night out.   What, you expected pictures?  It was so much fun, with a group of lovely, hilarious ladies.  I learned that girls night out is much the same in any culture: talking about men, sometimes tormenting a few, dancing to bad 80’s music, and giggling about it all the next morning!





Malaysia 2014: Day 3

14 05 2014

We woke up early the next morning with a trip to the marine park on the agenda.  I also woke up with a horribly sore pair of calves from yesterday’s stair climbing.  Ehsan suffered the same fate, so we spent most of the next couple of days wincing and walking stiffly after getting up.  Calves are a terrible pair of muscles to have sore, I’m glad I didn’t have to drive!

Good morning, Langkawi!

Good morning, Langkawi!

Our first stop was breakfast.  We each had a couple of selections from the menu.  For an American, it was shockingly inexpensive.  Prices listed are in ringgit, and the exchange rate is approximately 3 MYR to 1 USD.  So yes, items cost cents.

Breakfast menu

Breakfast menu

Roti or roti canai is a breakfast dish that’s sort of a cross between a pancake and a tortilla, with an assortment of fillings and/or toppings.

Roti kaya, my first pick.  It had a sweet filling and a dipping sauce that tasted like sweetened condensed milk.

Roti kaya, my first pick. It had a sweet filling and a dipping sauce that tasted like sweetened condensed milk.

Still hungry and encouraged to eat a hearty breakfast, I tried a banana-filled roti pisang next

Still hungry and encouraged to eat a hearty breakfast, I tried a banana-filled roti pisang next

With fresh lychee juice to drink.  The assortment of fresh fruit juices is something I really miss!

With fresh lychee juice to drink. The assortment of fresh fruit juices is something I really miss!

After breakfast we hopped onto a bus waiting outside the restaurant and rode to the dock at Kuah, where we boarded a ferry to the Pulau Payar Marine Park.  The ferry ride took about an hour, and we dozed for much of it.

The ferry

The ferry

Following Arie to our seats

Following Arie to our seats

The marine park offers swimming, snorkeling and for those trained, scuba diving.

The island from the jetty, with the swimming and snorkeling area roped off

The island from the jetty, with the swimming and snorkeling area roped off

The water was crystal clear

The water was crystal clear

The dark spots are coral.  It's deteriorated in condition, but still, fascinating!

The dark spots are coral. It’s deteriorated in condition, but still, fascinating!

As we stepped off the boat we were issued life vests, then given instructions, snorkels and masks once we reached the island.  I’d never been snorkeling before, but it was easy!  Strap on a mask, bite down on a snorkel and swim along facedown.  We decided first to swim from the shore and meet up at a platform at the edge of the rope.  We swam along slowly, taking a good look at the colorful fish that darted around the coral and the sea urchins.  We’d been told there were black tipped sharks in the water, and we saw a few.  The coral may not be in great shape, but I loved it anyway.  I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean and its life forms, and it was fun to see it up close!  I guessed the water was about 30 feet at its deepest, but I also knew my depth perception was altered when I stretched my arms out as far as I could in front of my face and my hands only seemed a foot or so away.  (Yes, I felt like I had T-Rex arms, which was weird!)

After swimming around and exploring for an hour or so, we swam back up for lunch.  It wasn’t great, but it was food and I was hungry, and thirsty!  We’d brought some snacks and water along since there isn’t any for purchase.  After lunch we reapplied sunscreen and headed back into the water.  Oddly enough, no one in this culture has ever heard of any old wives’ tales about waiting an hour after eating before swimming.  Nor did anyone get a stomach cramp.  We explored more of the coral and snorkeling area, then swam up to a small patch of beach that no other tourists seemed interested in and just floated around and enjoyed the water and sun.

As the excursion was wrapping up and the tide coming in, most people got out of the water and more sharks showed up, despite being told not to feed them, a few idiots did.  There are always idiots!

View of the water from the shore

View of the water from the shore

Sharks and small prey fish

Sharks and small prey fish

One more, because I can

One more, because I can

Back on the ferry, we tried some snacks, including this little treat.  I tried durian last year and even though I did eat some, like most Westerners I found it pretty repulsive.  It smelled like durian, but tasted like corn pops.

Still, why?

Still, why?

After returning to Langkawi, we visited a night market.  These are sort of like farmers markets in setup, and from the map it seems that they take place 5 nights a week around the island, with vendors simply packing up and moving on each night.  The wares were food, both prepared and harvested, and trinkets and reminded me a bit of a State Fair at night.

One vendor's food offerings

One vendor’s food offerings

Samosa, yum!

Samosa, yum!

Juices and juice blends

Juices and other drinks

Pie slices and desserts

Pie slices and desserts

Jewelry

Jewelry

After the night market, we ate at a traditional Malaysian restaurant, where dishes are served family-style.

Dinner

Dinner

After dinner, we did some shopping along the street, which is fairly narrow and lined with restaurants and all sorts of shops and vendors.

This vendor made keychains from colored wire, and offered custom-made name keychains.

This vendor made keychains from colored wire, and offered custom-made name keychains.

I wrote  my name down, and in just a couple of minutes he'd deftly whipped this up!

I wrote my name down, and in just a couple of minutes he’d deftly whipped this up!

After shopping, we headed back to the hotel and set out our spread from the night market for some midnight snacks.  My favorite was a fruit called water guava, which looks like a small, one-lobed, pink bell pepper.

Midnight snacks

Midnight snacks

Not long after, I went off to bed, the fun being worth the sunburn!

 





Malaysia 2014: Day 2

13 05 2014

We woke up early in the morning and headed to the Low Cost Terminal in KL to catch a flight to Pulau Langkawi for the vacation part of the trip.  Unlike American carriers, Air Asia truly is “low cost” with domestic and even international flights offered at shockingly low prices.  It’s no-frills, but who cares? (There are a LOT of pics in this post, so I’ve made them smaller, just click to enlarge!)

 

 

Arrival in Langakwi!  (l-r Arie, Aisya and me)

Arrival in Langakwi! (l-r Arie, Aisya and me)



We picked up the rental van and headed to our first stop at the Seven Wells.  

Monkeys in the road.  Not something you see at home!

Monkeys in the road. Not something you see at home!



The Seven Wells is a natural landmark, a waterfall with several pools on top of a mountain.  We arrived just as the park opened.

Map to the top

Map to the top

 

Don't feed the monkeys!

Don’t feed the monkeys!

 

Description of the Seven Wells

Description of the Seven Wells

 

The beginning of the stairs

The beginning of the stairs

Look down at some of the many stairs

Look down at some of the many stairs

Oh, you're getting tired of stairs?  Try climbing them.

Oh, you’re getting tired of looking at stairs? Try climbing them.

SO. MANY. STAIRS.  There were many resting areas on the way up, and we took advantage of nearly all of them.  We were all feeling a little old and out of shape, and the air was warm (90F or so) and about 3000% humidity.  

Finally, we reached the top.

Finally, we reached the top.

 

View of the wells

View of the wells

They didn’t make it into the photo, but there was a family slipping and sliding through the wells (it’s ok!).  I think they were German, throughout the trip we played “place the white people,” with my guess being German or Australian for most of the tourists.  If you enlarge this photo, you’ll see a couple of specks in the sky just above the notch in the mountain.  These are cable cars, which we’d ride next.   The trip down the stairs was much easier, and we were all in need of refreshment!

Yum, coconuts!  The real thing is much better than boxed/bottled coconut water!

Yum, coconuts! The real thing is much better than boxed/bottled coconut water!

After a rest and some hydration, we drove to the cable car.  I’ve had a lifelong fear of heights, and although it has gotten better over the years, I still wasn’t too sure about this.  Thanks to lots of travel and being in tall buildings, I don’t have panic attacks the way I occasionally did as a kid.  I’m ok if I’m inside a building or an airplane, and I have been in cable cars before, but nothing like this!  But there was no backing out now…

This did not help.

This did not help.

I was comforted to see that the cable cars themselves were in excellent shape, and the ride was very smooth.  Even the transitions over the stations weren’t as rough as other cable cars I’ve been on, nor was there any sway.  This eased my anxiety a lot and I was able to enjoy the spectacular view.

On the ascent from the lower to the middle station with a view of the ocean below

On the ascent from the lower to the middle station with a view of the ocean below

Ehsan and I at the middle station

Ehsan and I at the middle station

View from the top station

View from the top station

Me at the top, standing by the railing.  As a kid, I wouldn't do this at the second level of the mall!

Me at the top, standing by the railing. As a kid, I wouldn’t do this at the second level of the mall!

I was very, very glad I’d made the trip, about equally thrilled with the scenery and how far I’d come against what used to be a pretty major phobia.  Now there’s that needle thing…

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and changed clothes and washed up a little, then went for lunch before our next adventure: island hopping.  Yes, in Southeast Asia it’s common to eat food that is hot both in taste and temperature, even though the weather is tropical.  In the US, we eat hot soup and drink hot beverages to warm up when we’re cold, and it works.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t have the same effect when we’re already warm.

Lunch of soto ayam (chicken noodle soup)

Lunch of soto ayam (chicken noodle soup) and lime juice.

Our island-hopping adventure started when we took a van to the dock and boarded a speedboat full of other tourists.  Langkawi is not one island, but an archipelago of many.

The dock and boats

The dock and boats

View from the boat

View from the boat

Our first stop was at the island which contains the freshwater Lake of the Pregnant Maiden.  Legend has it that the water increases fertility.  Some people swam.  Needless to say, not one drop of that touched me, although I did consider bottling some up to splash on a couple of rabbits!

Lake of the Pregnant Maiden

Lake of the Pregnant Maiden

Placard with map and details

Placard with map and details

The next stop was an area where eagles nested.  Langkawi’s symbol is the eagle, and we saw many of them along with lots of eagle imagery.

Most of them were on the other side of the boat.

Most of them were on the other side of the boat.

Our third and final stop was at a little swimming island.  I wasn’t in swimwear, neither was Aisya, but we went swimming anyway.  I hatehatehate the phrase, “YOLO,” but…YOLO.  (For those of you blissfully unaware, it means You Only Live Once.)  So we swam around, me in a t-shirt and linen pants, and I filled my pockets with pieces of coral I picked up with my toes.  The water was peaceful and lovely.

A beautiful, uninhabited, peaceful island.  Paradise.

A beautiful, uninhabited, peaceful island. Paradise.

After our swim, we squeezed out our clothes and got back in the boat, soggy.  The wind whipped up by the boat’s speed had me mostly dried out by our return to land.  We changed again, and then visited the beach at sunset before dinner.

Does it get any better than this?

Does it get any better than this?

We stopped at an Indian restaurant for dinner, and indulged in everything that looked good before a well-deserved night’s sleep!

Rose syrup in water, very tasty!

Rose syrup in water, very tasty!

Garlic cheese naan

Garlic cheese naan

Vegetable biryani

Vegetable biryani





Malaysia 2014: Day 1

1 05 2014

After last year’s trip, I was thrilled to be invited back to Malaysia to judge an Easter show.  This was a shorter trip, only a week, as I had to be back for the National Dutch Show just a few days later.  My flight schedule worked out very well this time, departing on a Monday afternoon, then leaving LA at around midnight local time and arriving in Taipei at around 5 AM local time.  I’ve never really struggled with jet lag, but boarding the long flight at bedtime and arriving in the morning helped a lot – I normally sleep through these.  I got to Kuala Lumpur early Wednesday afternoon, a 14-hour time difference from home.  These trips always give me an opportunity to perfect my long flight survival tactics, and I’ve come up with the following list of essentials:

  • A blanket.  Yes, the airline provides them, no, they’re usually not clean.  Most long-haul flights have their thermostat set on “meat locker.”
  • A neck pillow.  See above.  It also frees up the airplane pillow for use as lumbar support or a seat cushion
  • Slippers with a rubber sole.  Sleeping is just more comfortable without your shoes, and if they have a decent sole you can wear them around the plane.
  • Noise-canceling headphones.  These are great, but they don’t block out 100% of noise and they’re only good for certain ranges.  Engine noise is in their range.  Little kids’ and higher-pitched adult voices are not.  Wearing them turned off will tone everything down, while wearing them turned on can sometimes make voices more audible.  If screaming kids are a problem, your best bet is to put on some music.  This is not a bad thing, if you have a good set (I have the Bose QuietComfort 15) you’ll hear things in the music that you’ve never heard before.  This also provides some entertainment.
  • Music, see above.
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste and face wash.  Nothing feels better than clean after a long flight, and you’ll find many other passengers freshening up in airport bathrooms.  I usually do before and after the long flight, and it’s pretty much the best feeling ever!
  • Hand lotion/lip balm.  Airplanes are dry.
  • Contact lens case/solution/glasses if you have them.  Again, airplanes are dry!

So no, the trip was not unbearable, or really even bothersome, except for the airplane food!

Upon arriving, I went to lunch with friends:

l-r Kama, Ehsan and Azlan

l-r Kama, Ehsan and Azlan

And ordered a favorite: nasi goreng (fried rice).

And ordered a favorite: nasi goreng (fried rice).

 

I handed over the supplies and trophies I’d brought, and then checked in at the hotel and took a nap before dinner.  At the reception area was a wall where people had written condolences and wishes to the passengers of MH370.  Many of them read, “please come back,” and it was heartbreaking.  I’d see many billboards and signs throughout the trip referencing the tragedy.  Naturally, I heard a lot of jokes about looking for the plane or people asking if I was worried before I went.  The answer was no; if anything, it was the safest time to be flying to Malaysia on a 777.

Wall in the hotel reception area

Wall in the hotel reception area

 

Later that evening we went to the KL tower.  iPhones don’t take the best photos at night, and my photography expertise consists of putting what I want in the middle of the screen and pushing the button, so excuse the blurriness!

The tower from the ground

The tower from the ground

View of the Petronas Towers from the top of the KL Tower.  At one time, they were the tallest in the world.

View of the Petronas Towers from the top of the KL Tower. At one time, they were the tallest in the world.

 

Afterwards, we went for dinner.  I had chicken biryani, which is funny to everyone because it’s pronounced “bree-annie,” a popular mispronunciation of Briony.

A coconut to drink, which tastes much better than boxed coconut water.

A coconut to drink, which tastes much better than boxed coconut water.

Chicken biryani

Chicken biryani

Azlan's wife Fizah and their adorable daughter Arissa at dinner.  I'm not much of a baby person, but she looks like a living doll and it's hard not to stare at her!

Azlan’s wife Fizah and their adorable daughter Arissa at dinner. I’m not much of a baby person, but she looks like a living doll and it’s hard not to stare at her!

 

After dinner we returned to the hotel and repacked for an early flight Thursday morning.