Tuesday, September 06, 2011


FYI: There are a lot of hyperlinks in this post.  Any words in a different color are a link.  Just click.

I realize that I'm still missing at least four posts from my last holidays. I'm finding it difficult to write them before putting pen to paper (as it were) about the holiday I just had. I am experiencing deja vu.  I left Vietnam promises to come back as I didn't see even half of what I wanted to and now I feel the same way about Sabah.

It was a seven day trip in and around the town of Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah region of the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo.  Also on Borneo Island is the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Brunei, and an Indonesian section called Kalimantan. Borneo is one of those places that immediately makes one think of sand beaches, tropical vegetation and blue skies.  I didn't make it out of Sabah, but I will vouch for all the above.

The government in Sabah is wisely doing what Indonesia isn't. Nearly all the Sabah region is protected wildlife parks and natural reserves. They are well run, well protected and still very wild.  The money is put back into care for the parks and for the good of the towns. It's really amazing.  In twenty years when 98% of Java is paved over, they'll still be scratching their head wondering what happened. In Sabah, they'll have some of the last great jungles in the world.

I traveled with Jenn, she's the person I've known longest here in Indo. We suffered through EF together, we were groupies together, we've been through a lot together. All that said, we'd never traveled together.  We left Saturday and arrived there just after midnight on Sunday. Sunday we awoke to find a very nice Sunday Market just outside our window. Lots of strange options and interesting products.
Dead frog change purses.  These were not the only ones we saw.
The town of KK is small and very walkable.  The trash is almost non-existent, the sidewalks are smooth and the length of the town manageable in about a half an hour. The waterfront is largely unimpressive and there's no beach there. 20-25 minutes from town by taxi is Tanjung Aru, a nice three-part beach. We rocked up right next to the Shangri-La resort and found a beautiful, empty, soft, sandy beach.  The walk along it was brilliant, watching the sand crabs was entertaining and I could hardly stay out of the surf.
Tanjung Aru beach #1
We spent two days on tours: the first a jungle canopy/hot springs and the second a village and a boat.  The Canopy tour was a raised walkway in the rainforest. Our tour guide was Melissa also. In Malay when you meet someone with the same name you call them Ang Ai.  The trees were huge and there were great views.  They did a good job of monitoring the traffic on the narrow pathways.  We did get to experience the rain part of the rainforest on our walk to a waterfall. 
Canopy walk

After that was a dip in the volcanically heated sulfur hot springs and a stop to see the rafflesia flower. It's a rare, carnivorous, parasitic flower. We missed out on the botanical garden because it was raining and cold but it was a good, full day.
Rafflesia flowers
Our second day of tours was a full one.  Two half-day tours  The morning was the Mari-Mari Village.  It's a village with examples of traditional homes of five Sabahan ethnic communities—the Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun.  We tasted rice wine, make some authentic food, see a wedding altar, try cookies after a demo, got a temporary tattoo, saw a trampoline made of bamboo in action and watched a traditional music and dance show. All before lunch!  A buffet topped things off and then onto a minibus to catch a boat. 
The village chief inaugurating our group "chief"

The dancing was very intense.
A two hour bus ride to see proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys and long tailed macaques proved fruitful.  We saw monkeys almost immediately.  They were wild but accustomed to the boat motor sounds.  They stayed at good distance but didn't fling poo at us, which I took as a positive thing. We weren't close enough to really see the nose on the proboscis but if you've read my blog you know how I feel about zoos. We saw babies with all the groups. 
Macaques all look like they have mustaches and mohawks.
Can you find the five monkeys in this photo?  Answer at the bottom.

There were two trees side by side.  One was a group of proboscis and one a pack of silver leaf. Neither group seemed disturbed by the other or by us. As sun set we nearly stumbled on two packs of water buffalo neck deep in the river.  I was totally awed by the huge fruit bats swarming across the sky.  The wing span must have been a meter or more and there were dozens or more.  I have a new appreciation of bats after living in Indo where the little ones eat insects. Dinner was great and then we went back out on the boat to see fireflies.  We didn't see many but were lucky to have seen any since there was an impending storm.  It was a brilliant day, aside from the random, unidentified bug (possibly ant?) attack on my feet.
Water buffalo having a bath
We wasted a day going out to Labuan island.  There is nothing to see apart from this cool mosque that I think is an Alien spaceship docking station. There was cheap beer (I had Peroni, Stella Artois and Hoegaarden) plus Strongbow cider form England. All except the Hoe are unavailable in Jakarta, and I refuse to pay ten dollars for a bottle of Hoe.

We wasted a night but we didn't know.  The next day was a small boat out to Pulau Sapi or Cow Island.  There were no cows. We walking fifteen minutes from the crowded beaches to a tiny beach that we had all to ourselves. Snorkeling revealed maybe 30 different kinds of fish, plus starfish, crabs, sea cucumbers and anemones. If we'd known we would have spent more days out on the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park that is made up of five islands. 
Fan-slippin-tastic Sapi Island
We'd not only burned the candle at both ends but we burnt it out.  Most night we were sleeping four or five hours and then would fall asleep on any bus or boat ride that was more than twenty minutes.  Well, I did.  I can't vouch for Jenn since I was asleep. Friday I'd started coughing.  By Saturday, our last day, the cough turned into a full on head cold and was compounded by a vicious hangover. We both drug ourselves outta town with promises to return.  

A last note: The locals and night life were very chill but interested.  We've concluded that KK is full of men with very bad hair and started to ponder the rationale. The food was cheap and fresh.  Vietnamese, Indian, Malay, western and a variety of fresh seafood were all readily available.
See? Five monkeys.

1 comment:

  1. I hate those damn Macaque monkeys. I worked with them at a zoo (a nice zoo) in Australia and they were rude bastards. Always looking for trouble.

    Beaches look nice.

    Mosque is fricking AWESOME!