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Malaysia

2018 NOV 11 - 15 MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kota Kinabalu

Back to the capital for our final stay

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

So, I have obviously fallen a little behind in writing this blog, so I am just going to try and fill in the gaps. Not going to bother to write up about days when we did very little (there were a few) just give you the highlights on the days we ventured out.

Sunday 11th November – day 136

Our last day in Kuching and we had a nice little sleep in, (as usual), heading out at about 11am to have ‘brunch’ in a café we had spotted earlier in the week that promised PORK bacon and eggs. Much to our disappointment after walking the 10 minutes through Chinatown to reach the café we were advised they did not open until 12 noon. Bugger! We did not have time to wait around another 45 minutes and then wait longer for our order to be taken and cooked, so we returned to Wind Meal Café, where we had stopped for a cold drink a few days ago. Any food now would be a disappointment after what we all had imagined we would have been eating this morning. Although I am sure what we read and imagined the menu to be would not be what we would have received, it would have been an Asian version of a Western menu, which my now we should know better, but the dream was there.

Our late checkout was for 1pm and I managed to stretch this out until 1.15 and then it took 10 minutes to get the lift to the ground floor. This hotel seems to be quite busy during the weekend and there is lots of toing and froing between floors by the other occupants.
Todays flight from Kuching back to Kota Kinabalu is at 3.50pm so we don’t need to leave for the nearby airport until about 2pm. We thought we could just loll around the foyer using the hotel internet, but they turned off our connection with our check out.

When the time came I just called a GRAB that took us to Kuching Airport for 20 myr. Check in, wait for flight, short flight and then land in Kota Kinabalu late afternoon. We all decided it would be a good idea to eat something at one of the airport food outlets as we really had no idea what would be available at our next accommodation which I knew was about an hours drive out of KK so we would get there later than dinner time.

After we had eaten some crappy fast food at the airport, I called a GRAB and we loaded our luggage and climbed in. The ride from airport to Borneo Treehouses was about an hour and costs just 42MYR = $14. It was dark by the time we arrived at the accommodation and there was no one there to greet us even though I had sent a text message advising of our late-ish arrival time. The taxi driver ended up going looking for someone and we were finally given a key and the way pointed to our 'tree house". Yes it definitely was a tree house as there was a tree growing up the middle of the 2 rooms of the accommodation. The rooms were one on top of the others so it was the same tree.

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Lucky we had eaten at the airport as the restaurant was long closed, if it was open at all as it looked like we were the only guests. We settled into our 2 rooms, Dolly & Robyn sharing the double bed in the main room and April & I climbing up the steep stairway to the 2 single beds upstairs. At least the place was clean, we would reassess in the morning when it was light.

Monday 12th November – day 137

Breakfast was a shambles! The 4 or 5 women who were hanging around the restaurant and kitchen spoke exactly zero words of English so it was very difficult for us to order anything to eat. Everything on the menu was rice or noodles and we soon realized this was a place that mostly / only Malaysians came to. Some guy was found who did speak a little English and we managed to get a bit of bread and some eggs to eat, but we realized that this would not be a good place for us to stay with regards to food. Actually this was the last time we even saw anyone in the restaurant, and it was decided we would cut short our 4 nights here and try to extend our stay at our next accommodation back in KK.

We spent the morning by the pool which I must admit was very nice. The sun was out and the water was lovely cooling and clean. In the afternoon we caught a GRAB to the local shopping mall which contained about 5 shops in total so not much to look at and it was raining. We had lunch and bought some snacks to have back at the tree house for dinner.

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Tuesday 13th November – day 138

I called a GRAB which took us back into KK and to the apartment I had managed to extend for a few extra days. We were better off being down here in the capital with food options and a roomy comfortable apartment to hang out in.

Relaxing day, out to eat.

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Wednesday 14th November – day 139

Weather is not very good, grey, rainy, we are not doing much.

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We went to a shopping mall today and went to the movies to see Bohemian Rhapsody - which we found out later had been cut 20 minutes short due to Malaysian laws about showing anything in movies relating to homosexuality. Wow, in this day and age do you believe that. Anyway good excuse for me to see a great movie again. Cinema tickets are really cheap here we paid 10myr = $3.33 and half of that again for drinks and popcorn each. Why they have to be so expensive in Australia I don't know, and the cinema here was as modern as the ones at home.

Thursday 15th November – day 140

Another relax day. We went out to plan a day trip for tomorrow as it will be our last full day in Borneo.

Dinner was seafood from across the street.

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Friday 16th November – day 141

Day trip to Kinabalu Park, Botanical Gardens, Canopy Walk & Hot springs.

Our first stop was at a village with a lookout to view Mt Kinabalu, but the clouds had other ideas as they provided a white hat so we could not see the top the mountain.

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After a quick bit of shopping, we moved on to the botanical gardens which are part of the protected Mt Kinabalu National Park. Our guide took us for a walk through the gardens and was pretty knowledgeable about the local flora. He showed us the smallest orchid in the world.large_DSCN1606.JPG
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Just before lunch our next stop was at a RAFFELSIA GARDEN to see the biggest flower in the world. From the smallest to the largest - Borneo has them all. These very large blooms that flower from a huge bulb on vine were so big that they almost did not look real. Of course we were not able to touch the flowers as any contact on them kills them instantly - apparently. The largest one we saw was approximately 80cm in diameter and it really did look fake to me, but apparently it was real and alive. The giant petals are very thick and waxy looking so I guess that is why my mind did not want to believe it. Anyway they were amazing and the ones that grow in the jungle on the Indonesian side of Borneo have been know to grow up to almost 20 meters in diameter.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:06 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kinabalu kota Comments (0)

2018 NOV 5 - 10 MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kuching

REST IN A HIGH RISE IN KUCHING

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Monday 5th November 2018 – day 130 Kuching

We woke up after a dry night, no rain at all during the night. Once we had walked up to breakfast we could see the ocean was flat also. It still didn’t look very inviting with its grey colour matching the grey sky, but it was a lot calmer than past days. Ironically, it’s starting to become swimmable on the day we are departing.

After our non-descript breakfast, they ran out of bread today and we had to attempt to toast cut up baguette sticks that have been sitting in the bread box as decoration all week, we returned to the cabin to finish packing our suitcases. The luggage is being collected at 11.30am, hopefully, after Dolly’s request to reception this morning. Our driver is due at 12 noon to drive us back into Kuching.

Luggage collected we walked to reception, I paid the bill and we loaded ourselves into our GRAB car who was a little early. He had already loaded our bags, so we sat back and enjoyed the hour-long ride to Kuching.

We drove up to Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites, our home for the next 6 nights. I had managed to book an extra night since we left the jungle a day earlier. First impressions were good, the foyer of this hotel is huge and impressive. But I have been fooled before by showy foyers, usually the rooms behind them are a lot different to what the façade displays. However, this time the room, or I should say rooms, did not disappoint. We are in a 2-bedroom suite, with a lounge room and a dining room and a mini kitchenette with absolutely nothing inside except a hot water jug and a microwave oven. Not a plate or a bowl or a fork to use in the kitchen. Little matter, we have no intention on cooking anyway.

We are on the 16th floor, with a corner suite and a great view overlooking downtown Kuching and its waterfront. The view would be even better if they had washed the outside of the windows in the last 20 years, but that’s just my opinion. This is a great location and confirmed it was a good decision when I changed our Kuching hotel booking last week.

We settled into and relaxed in our spacious surroundings before heading out to the Plaza Merdeka to find some food for a late lunch. The big flash shopping mall was just 5 minutes’ walk across the park and we found the food court to have lunch in. After we ate we walked around having a look at the shops.

A TV channel showing crappy shows, but in English, caught our attention for the afternoon and evening until we headed out for dinner after 8.30pm. Pizza Hut in the mall was handy so that’s where we headed.

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Tuesday 6th November 2018 – day 131 day out from Kuching

We organized a day trip with our GRAB driver from yesterday. This is the easiest way for us to organize transport rather than pay for seats on a tour. This way we have the time to ourselves and can come and go as we please. And it works out a hell of a lot cheaper.

Our excursion today was to the SEMONGGOH NATURE RESERVE, where we were again able to see the magnificent orangutans. We were pretty lucky with our sightings here as they are a lot more wild and don't always show themselves for food, preferring to forage in the jungle for themselves. At the start there was just one young male hanging around, but by the end of the 2 hours we had seen a couple more and a great finale by the giant alfa male who came very close and posed while we all took photos. It's just amazing to see these animals so close up - a real privilege.

SEMONGGOH NATURE RESERVE
For over 20 years, the wardens at Semenggoh Nature Reserve have been training young orangutans, who had been orphaned or rescued from captivity, how to survive in the wild. The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult orangutans, who are now breeding in the wild. The programme has since been transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre, but Semenggoh Nature Reserve is still home to its successful graduates, semi-wild orangutans and their babies. They spend most of their time roaming the forest but frequently come back to the Centre for a free meal. If it is the fruiting season in the forest, some or even all of them may not come to feed. This in itself is a good sign and another step on the way to full rehabilitation.

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Next stop after about an hours drive through the jungle was the ANNAH RAIS LONGHOUSE. It was good to actually see just jungle and not any palm plantations like we had seen in Sabah. I'm not saying they don't have palm plantations down here in Sarawak, but they do have a lot more visible jungle.
There are not many long houses left anymore, and the few that remain seem to have been turned into tourists attractions I guess to create income for the villages. A long house is basically houses which are all joined together with a common veranda where families or tribes lived together.
We were lucky enough to see some tribal women who had come in from a more remote village dressed in traditional dress. They were happy enough to smile with their betel nut stained teeth and have photos taken of their colourful costumes.

Annah Rais Longhouse is a Bidayuh settlement about 100km south of Kuching, at the foothill of Borneo Highlands near the mountains marking the border to Kalimantan. Kampung Annah Rais is a large Bidayuh village centred around a centuries-old bamboo longhouse, one of the finest still in existence. The Bidayuh make up about 8% of Sarawak’s population and were formerly known as Land Dayaks. They are gracious hosts and village is the perfect place to discover Bidayuh culture and learn about their fascinating way of life.

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Our final 2 stops were at FAIRY CAVE and WIND CAVE. The fairy cave was massive inside, after we walked up 4 flights of steps to the entrance, then scrambled in the semi darkness up a ladder to get to the main chamber. You can see by the pic's below the sheer size by the staircases that led to the top in several places. The last photo shows 2 small people (April & Dolly) standing at the base of chamber, I took the photo from a great height.

Wind cave was less impressive as it was dark, dank and stank of bat shit, which was not surprising considering the cave was inhabited by hundreds of bats which we could see when I shone the torch up high. We got out of there as quickly as possible and our driver was surprised to see us back so soon.

Fairy Cave (also known as Gua Pari) is an impressive show cave near the former gold mining settlement of Bau and about 40km from Kuching, Sarawak. It is just a few minutes drive from another show cave, Wind Cave, and most tourists would combine both on a half-day trip from Kuching.

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We were dropped back at the Merdeka after a great day out. Dinner over at the food court.

Wednesday 7th November 2018 – day 133 Kuching / Thursday 8th November - day 133 / Friday 9th November – day 134

The next few days we just spent around Kuching town. We walked around exploring or just relaxing at the hotel. There was a bit of rain during the days so we did not venture too far.
We saw the street art on the walls in China Town and visited the Cat Museum - apt considering Kuching means cat in Malay language.

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Made it down to the waterfront to watch the bridge light up and the fountain water show that they put on two times at night.

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Saturday 10th November – day 135

Weather does not look better today at all, but its today or never so we are going to Bako National Park regardless. Robyn has decided to sit today out, so it was just the 3 of us: Dolly, April & I who met Mr Yeo outside the hotel at 8am. He had quoted us 54 myr = $18 each way for the ride to the ferry dock. The only way to get to Bako NP is by water, there are no roads that lead up to the park.

The drive was much shorter than the drive up to Permai, taking about 35 minutes. Arriving in the car park just before 9am. Not sure if it was because it was Saturday, or every day is like this, but the car park was already crowded.

We were directed to a ticket counter where we had to purchase boat tickets 40 myr = $13.50 each return and a guy hung around hassling us for a guide. We had no idea whether we needed a guide or not so shunned him away and hoped we could decide on arrival. Next, we were directed to the National Park entry counter where we had to pay 20 myr = $6.70 each.

We shared the small wooden motor boat with just 2 other tourists and their guide (oops) and of course the boat captain, so luckily it was not overcrowded. And it was compulsory to put on the sticky, stained and tatty life jackets, which I would be very surprised if they would save a life in the condition they were in. But we donned them anyway and were soon motoring up the small river out into the sea and around to the beach where the NP office was.
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We had to scramble out of the boat into knee deep water and walk up the beach about 200m to the park buildings. No jetty here and due to the tide times we would not be able to leave until after 2pm when there is enough water for the boats to get across the sea back to the river mouth to take us back. I'm sure we would be able to kill a few hours here.

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First stop was the one and only restaurant to have some breakfast that we did not have time to have before our pick up this morning. The food is not worth mentioning so I will just advise about our breakfast companions - a couple of bearded pigs. Yes there is such an animal and here are some pictures to prove it.
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After we had eaten we decided to attempt at least a short jungle trek. This seemed to be the most popular option even for the other people we saw who had guides. So we took off on the marked path coming to a boardwalk which lead us over the mangroves. Looking down to the mud there were lots of tiny crabs with one huge claw and also lots of mud skippers. And we were lucky enough to see the resident proboscis monkey. A fine looking specimen, a male who had a noticeably short tail. I overheard a guide advise that this had been amputated as the monkey had been injured and the tail was damaged beyond repair. At the same spot there was also a green viper snake basking in the sun on a tree branch- only snake we had seen in Borneo.

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The boardwalk led us into the jungle track where we walked for about an hour and led us out onto the beach. The jungle track was in parts quite difficult to transverse and there was a bit of climbing and struggling over tree roots and rocks. Not helping was the fact that it was so hot and the humidity under the tree cover was just making us all walking waterfalls of sweat. It was a relief when the track opened out to the beach where we saw monkeys and some more bearded pigs roaming around on the beach. We were even more relieved when we were told by someone else's guide that we did not have to walk back through the jungle track but could pay a few dollars to be transported back by boat. And there were a couple of boats waiting just off shore for this very reason. Of course we took up this offer which also included a quick ride around to some rock formations before returning us to the NP office beach. Unfortunately our boat captain managed to get the motor caught up in a fishing net and we had to bob around in the water for about 30 minutes as he cut the entangled net away from the prop of the motor.

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The boat returned us to the NP beach where we walked up and had some lunch while we waited for the tide to be right for our return up the river to the start jetty. Mr Yeo was waiting for us to take us back to Kuching. Another great day out.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuching bako Comments (3)

2018 OCT 29 - 31 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Sandakan

OUT OF THE JUNGLE, INTO THE TOWN.

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Monday 29th October 2018 – day 123 River Kinabatangan to Sandakan

We had breakfast and then our luggage was loaded for the trip back to Sepilok. We did have a stop on the way back in a jungle area where there are supposed to be orangutans for a last-ditch effort to see them in the wild. This was an easy walk as it was along the road that leads to the big caves where all the swiftlets making bird nests are. We did see evidence of orangutan presence in the way of old used sleeping nests high up in the trees. But none of these were fresh and we saw exactly zip again. The most exciting part of the walk was when Robyn was attacked by a wild animal in the way of a bee or wasp that bit her on the face. This was the closest any of us came to seeing any animal. Although on the way out at the entrance gate we saw a Borneo Baboon and another monkey with a cute little baby.

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Mr Aji had to so to the airport to pick up the next load of clients and he offered the services of his son to drop us at our accommodation in Sandakan rather that dropping us back in Sepilok. This was good for us as we would have to find maybe 2 separate GRAB cars to get us and luggage into the town. He dropped us at the door and we paid him 20myr = $6.60 which was the same as we would have paid a GRAB.

I phoned the agent for the apartment and was advised our check-in was not until 3pm, it was now 12. We opted to pay the 30myr = $10 for early check-in rather than waiting outside for 3 hours. The agent showed up 15 minutes later and showed us to the 15th floor 3-bedroom apartment, which is home for the next 3 nights. The apartment block seemed a little out of town and when I asked about the closest supermarket he advised not far and next thing we know he had wangled a lift with him if we could leave now.

Turns out the supermarket was not that far away, and we would be able to walk home with the small amount of groceries we had purchased mainly for breakfasts at the apartment. Lunch was at KFC – bad choice really, but that was all there was at the mall beside pizza hut.

On our return, we decided a swim in the enormous pool was in order, all except Robyn who opted to stay inside. The pool was lovely and for half an hour we were the only ones using it. We decided we’d had enough when a group of kids came down and broke our peace.

None of us could be bothered heading out anywhere for dinner, so we made do with a few of the breakfast supplies to throw together a bit of a meal.

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Tuesday 30th October 2018 – day 124 Sandakan

Dolly & Robyn shared the main bedroom with ensuite and April and I each had a single room each. The aircon in my room kept turning itself off so I was constantly waking up during the night and turning it back on. It was obviously hot enough that I was waking up.

Robyn was not feeling the best this morning, so she stayed in while the rest of us caught a GRAB into town. I was surprised at the distance we were from the centre and made note to check distances next time before booking accommodation. The GRAB was only 10 myr - $3.30, which is so cheap to get around making the distance out not too bad. We were dropped off at Agnes Keith House, which is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Sandakan besides the animal sanctuaries which we had already visited. Agnes Keith was an American woman who was living in Borneo before World War 2 and wrote books about her life there. She was married to an English man, Harry, who was sent to Sandakan with his work. Agnes, Harry and their young son George were taken prisoner by the Japanese during the war and she wrote books about their experiences during this time as well. She is obviously the most famous white woman to have lived in Sandakan, so they have restored her home and turned it into an attraction. We visited the house and it was actually very interesting. Next door there is an ‘English Tea House’ that we visited next to sample the high tea. There was a nice view from where we sat under the pergola in the garden and considering where we were the high tea was ok. We sat there relaxed for awhile then took the 100 stair steps down into the centre of town. This was all part of a Heritage Trail they have set up in the town. We did walk the whole trail as the other sites were not that interesting. At the bottom of the hill was the museum, which we did enter. It was just a couple of rooms, but had some great old photos of what the town looked like before and after the war.

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We walked a bit around the town, it’s nothing spectacular. The seafront is nothing. We sat in a waterfront restaurant to have a cool drink before looking for a supermarket to buy water and something for dinner to take back to the apartment as I knew no one would want to venture out again.
Dolly was keen to cook some potatoes on our one burner supplied in the kitchen and I suggest a roast chicken would be easy if we could find one. As luck would have it we found a mall that had a Kenny Rogers Roasters Restaurant and we were able to purchase a whole cooked chicken. We found some ladies selling vegetables on the footpath, so we managed to procure some potatoes to go with the chicken.

With dinner sorted I googled for a GRAB to take us back to the apartment. We had stopped right next to a taxi rank and the taxi driver came over to try and steal the ride, but they were not going to do the trip for the same price as the GRAB, so happily stepped aside.

I think Robyn was happy to see us back with some food for dinner. She asked if we got caught in the rain while we were out as it had come down here at the apartment. We did not have any rain in town at all. We ate in the apartment, could not find anything in English to watch on the telly.

Wednesday 31st October 2018 – day 125 Sandakan

Sleep in day today, it was looking a little grey outside and it was raining when we finally decided it was time to head out. I called a GRAB and we were taken to Agnes Keith House again so that Robyn could have a visit. Of course, Dolly, April & I headed straight for the tea house which we noticed yesterday was serving cocktails. It was well after 12 noon so we thought a cocktail would be nice. All excited we ordered and where shortly after told there was no coconut ingredient available so the house cocktail and the pina coladas were off. Not happy, we opted for tea instead, not a very good substitute, but I had already ordered a scone and needed something to wash it down with.

Sitting disappointed, we were soon joined by Robyn who had finished her visit of Keith house and also ordered tea and scone.

We sat for about 2 hours enjoying the peace full atmosphere of the gardens, it had not rained here so it was pleasant to sit outside under a different pergola to yesterday. The English owner came over to greet us and we complained about the lack of coconut ingredients for cocktails and he apologized but still did nothing about it. A little later we saw him drive off and thought he might be out to buy coconuts, but no such luck. He came back empty handed. Still, we remained until it was dark, we had planned on heading to a rooftop bar to watch the sunset, but time got away from us and it was lucky that the 100 steps were lit up so we could walk down to the town.

We found the roof top bar at the top of the Naka Hotel. It probably would have been a nice stop to watch the sunset, if there was any kind of sunset with the clouds and all.

The bar and staff were all decorated for Halloween, can’t believe this American holiday get celebrated here in the far reaches of Borneo, but there you go. We ordered overpriced cocktails, these were the most expensive I have had in Asia. 25 myr = $8.50 – I had an Expressotini – which was also the most yucky cocktail I have ever had. The other ladies ordered White Russian which they said were not too bad, but too expensive I say. Take me back to Kampot, Cambodia!!

After just one drink we headed back to the waterfront restaurants, near where we had stopped for drink yesterday, to have something to eat. There were a few locals out and about, but this is definitely not a tourist town. I guess the tourists stay out in Sepilok near where the animals can be seen. If there are any in town, they are definitely not out and about in this area.

I called a GRAB and soon we were back in the lift going up the 15 stories to our apartment.

Bags needed to be packed as we are flying to Sarawak tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 01:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo sandakan Comments (1)

2018 NOV 1 - 5 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Santubong

SARAWAK - UP TO THE JUNGLE IN SANTUBONG PENINSULA

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH AND SARAWAK**********

Thursday 1st November – day 126

Big travel day today. We are leaving Sabah and flying down to Sarawak – the southern part of Malaysian Borneo. This involves a flight back to Kota Kinabalu from Sandakan, then another flight from KK to Kuching.

The apartment manager knocked on our door at 7.30am to return the 200 myr bond we had to pay. A nice young girl who was not even interested in looking around to see if we had damaged anything – of course we had not anyway. I called a GRAB and we were in the elevator heading down to meet it by 8am. Our flight was not until 10am but we were not sure if we would need to call 2 GRAB cars to take us and luggage to airport. Luckily, we all fit in the one car and the GRAB price of 6myr = $2 (I gave him 10 myr = $3.30 as he assisted with loading and unloading our bags) was a bargain to take us the 10-minute drive to the airport. Loving these cheap GRAB rides.

So, we were very early for our flight, but were able to check our bags in and then just sat around until it was time to board. All smooth, the flight was about 50 minutes and we were given a meal – hardly enough time to eat it before landing – as I had purchased the flight with luggage and meal deal. The chicken rice meal was quite nice, and I ate most of mine, the others said theirs was very dry and awful looking so did not.

The flight managed to get us into Kota Kinabalu 20 minutes ahead of schedule before 11am, which was not much good for us as our next flight was not until 3.35pm. This time we were too early to be able to check in our luggage, so we sat in Maccas waiting until the 3-hour mark before our flight. Finally, bags dropped in, we still had 3 hours to wait for the flight. We found a seat after going through security check and waited until it was time to go to our boarding gate. Thought it was a good idea to have some lunch before boarding the 2nd plane which was due to land in Kuching at 5pm, and I had not purchased the meal deal on this flight. We had some very ordinary food from Marry Brown, a Malaysian fast food chain. I have eaten at Marry Brown before and it was ok, but here everything was cold and soggy so not very enjoyable at all.

Our flight to Kuching left a little late, and I slept most of the 1 ½ hours it took to get there. On the ground we collected our luggage and had to line up and go through immigration again. This was odd considering we came in on a domestic flight, within Borneo even. They did not stamp our passports but did take photos and finger prints again.

I called for a GRAB car, luckily finding one that would take us all. The fare come up as 78 myr = $26, which was about right compared to an old Lonely Bastard book I am carrying. Our accommodation is a fair way out of Kuching – more than 1 hours drive so this price is pretty good and divided by 4 a real bargain.

We managed to get a nice friendly driver, who played good music we all knew and didn’t flinch when we all sang along.

It was dark by the time we reached our accommodation PERMAI FOREST RETREAT. It’s costing us about $120 per night for the 4 of us with breakfast and dinner included. After checking in, we were given a mud map to show us the way to our cabin, which was about 200 metres away. So, we had to drag our luggage in the dark, although the path was lit up, and granted the path was cemented but there were a few slight inclines which made it quite difficult to struggle with our luggage. Finally, we found the cabin and I must say it was a bit of a surprise. 2 bedrooms with 3 single beds in each room, and a sitting area with limited furnishings and a little mini fridge. No air con, but ceiling fans and open screened windows. And a nice big veranda at the front – it was better than what I had expected.

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Friday 2nd November – day 127

April woke me this morning with ‘Cindy, its 20 to 9, best get up if we want to go to breakfast’. I sat up and dug the breakfast vouchers out of my bag – breakfast finished at 10am, but it was time to get up anyway.

Our cabin is about 100m from the restaurant and we walked the same path that we had dragged our luggage over last night. I looked a little different in the daylight. We could see the ocean, that we could only hear last night, through the trees, it was about 10 meters away. The little bit of sky we could see was unfortunately grey, which meant it was cloudy, and it was hard to tell where the water met the sky on the horizon as they were the same shade.

Breakfast was semi buffet, a help yourself local noodle dish and local bean dish. A couple of cereals, coffee, tea, toast and a guy standing cooking egg omelettes. Bread and a toaster were help yourself and there was an empty plate that was labelled pancakes. The others had toast and eggs, I waited another 10mins for some fresh pancakes to come out. They were ok, a bit stodgy but ok. Breakfast in included in our room rate.

We sat around chatting and admitting the view from the dinning room. Then April suggested we try the jungle ‘walk’ to the waterfall. Everyone was keen, so April and I walked over the wooden boardwalk to the reception as it was a requirement to register when you did a walk.

The beginning of the track was not far from our cabin, just past the jungle pool, which we thought would be nice for a dip on our return. The map from reception claimed the walk was 2km round trip. It was fairly easy walking, although we were steadily climbing up. About an hour in, we came across 2 Dutch guys (in their 60’s) who had started the track from the other side and said it was pretty hard going and did not think we could make it. They had already been walking for almost 2 hours. We were less than half way so when we walked a little further and came to a part of the track that was climbing over huge boulders with the aid of a rope, we all agreed it would be best for us to turn back an go the way we come.

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We had walked for almost 2 hours by the time we returned to the jungle pool. Dolly and I were the only ones who braved the cool water. Dolly already had her swimmers on and I just took off my shorts and went in knickers and t shirt, I was dripping wet with sweat anyway. April decided to walk back to reception to advise them we were back, to avoid a search party being sent out and Robyn returned to the cabin for a shower.
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After our swim, Dolly & I returned to the cabin for a shower and we all had a bit of a relax after our strenuous effort for today. Shame about the waterfall, however when I asked the Dutch men about the waterfall, they just said it was a trickle of water, so we did not miss much I am guessing.
Worst part is, my camera has died! Yes, the new one that Robyn brought over for me from Australia. I too some photos during the walk and it just stopped working. I don’t seem to have much luck with cameras at all, hopefully it will come good.

After showers and a rest, we headed out to find some lunch. April decided to stay in and rest some more so just the 3 of us headed out to see what we could find. The restaurant here does do lunch but after a look at the menu it seemed a little pricy for local food. We walked into the village and found a big food court in a type of shopping centre. Here there was a lot to choose from, all at good local prices. There was also a 711 store and a couple of other shops selling assorted goods and souvenirs. We had a browse through them all to kill some time then strolled back to our bungalow. The sun was out, and it was still hot, nice blue sky.

Our included dinner was nothing exciting, they served the good old chicken curry again, but tonight was corn soup which I filled up on as I thought it was very tasty.

Saturday 3rd November – day 128

I was woken up by a clap of thunder at about 1am. It sounded like it was going to rain so I got up out of bed and went outside and took in my washing which I had left out to dry overnight. Good thing I did too, as I’m not sure how much later but it did rain for the rest of the night. It sounded like quite hard rain but it’s a little hard to tell as we are surrounded by trees and perhaps it was the sound of the rain coming through them that made it sound so loud. In any case, it did rain and was still pouring down when we woke in the morning.

At around 9.30am we headed up for breakfast and there was hardly a spit of rain falling by then, but the day looked like it was going to stay grey for the duration. It’s a little cooler but still you can feel the humidity. Not much we can do when the weather is like this, hardly the beach weather we were hoping to at this location.

Breakfast was the same, fried or omelette eggs cooked on demand, with tea, coffee and stodgy pancakes. Sorry I cannot get excited about the food here, am so over ‘Asian’ everyday food so will not dwell on it.

So, looks like a reading books, catching up on blog sort of day today, as although the rain has stopped its gloomy.
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The activities advertised here by our accommodation are very expensive, and we cannot do them anyway as they involve going in a boat on the sea and we have been advised it is too rough for the boats to go out. A 3 in 1 trip which is snorkelling from an island, attempting dolphin watching and a mangrove tour is 250 myr = $83 per person. I thought it might have been 250 myr per boat but no it was confirmed per person. This is a very expensive excursion, but it’s irrelevant anyway because the boats are not going.

And my camera is still cactus! I was kinda hoping it was spring back into life after it cooled down a bit, but it’s still as dead, refusing to do anything.
The sky had cleared a little by 2.30pm when we ventured out to the village to get some lunch. On the way passing through reception I stopped to ask if it was possible to change our reservation from 5 nights to 4 nights. The young girl asked by me why and I said because of the weather is not so nice we have nothing to do here. Luckily, they were able to change the Booking.com reservation without any problems because we had not yet paid. I will have to look and see if I can change the booking for our hotel in Kuching town for an extra night. At least if we are in the town we might be able to do something.

We returned to the same food hall we visited yesterday, today I had a chicken chop with chips and a coffee milkshake, all for 15 myr = $5 – so food is cheap enough that’s for sure.
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After we had eaten we did another lap of the same shops as yesterday, however April was not with us yesterday and we had nothing better to do anyway.

Returning to our accommodation, we had tried to take a look at the flash resort next to ours, but you cannot go in without paying a 10 myr day pass. Weren’t that interested to see inside so we decided against it. Back in our reception I managed to get onto the interest to try and change our booking for Kuching. Booking could not be changed, but I was able to just book another night in the same hotel, same type of room so all good there.

I then contacted the GRAB guy who took us from the airport up to here to collect us on Monday and drive us to Kuching. He had a nice big car that fit us all and luggage comfortably. He responded and will be here on Monday at 12 to collect us.

With not much else to do we relaxed until it was time for sunset where we took a seat on the restaurant balcony. There was not much of a sunset view due to trees, but there was cloud cover as well so it was not a great sunset anyway. As the restaurant did not serve any alcohol, we ordered mocktails and took our own Malibu to add to it. That was not very successful either as most of the mocktails were not available either. I ended up with an orange juice with a scoop of ice cream, which tasted ok with a dash of Malibu splashed in (on the sly). Dolly and Robyn had a coconut with a scoop of ice cream and a good splash of Malibu – April decided on nothing. There was no pineapple available, so the choice was very limited.
We sat and watched what we could see of the sunset and then went to dinner. Returning to our cabin it had not rained all afternoon or evening, but I’m sure there was more rain to come.

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Sunday 4th November – day 129

The rain first woke me at about 12.30am. I guess it was heavy as it was loud enough to wake me. It was still showering when we woke up later in the morning. Being under tree cover its often hard to tell if its actual rain or tree drops that are falling on the roof of our cabin.

Walking up to breakfast didn’t even warrant a rain cape but the rain looks like it has set in for the day. We had a long leisurely breakfast, not in a hurry to go or do anything again today. The breakfast is ok as they serve help yourself toast, and someone is there to cook an egg omelette or fried egg, so at least breakfast is hot. Not the usual luke warm food served at dinner.

As I sit in our cabin typing this it sounds like the rain has set in for the day. On other days it has usually stopped and started to clear by nearly midday. We don’t mind lazing around, but how much relaxing can one do?

2.45pm we decided it was dry enough to wander into town to the food court for dinner. Yes, the rain was finished, and it was a muggy as anything. Everything feels slightly wet, washing that has been hanging for 2 days refuses to dry and even clothing that has not touched water since the last machine was even feels damp. Things could easily go very mouldy here very fast.

Being Sunday, the food court was busy, even at this late time of 3pm. I had the same meal of chicken chop and chips as I had yesterday as it was so tasty, and I’m done with rice and noodles if there is a choice. We did not linger around after lunch as the local karaoke was starting to make our ears bleed. I was about to grab the mike and have a go as it was obvious singing talent was not needed in this entertainment. Instead we walked back to the cabin and waited for dinner time to click around.

Our last dinner was not memorable so nothing to advise there. It had not rained at all during the afternoon, although the sea still looked choppy and uninviting.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching Comments (0)

2018 OCT 27 - 28 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - River Kinabatangan

Down by the river!

semi-overcast

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Saturday 27th October 2018 – day 121 River Kinabatangan

As we had all packed last night, it was up, get dressed and drag luggage to reception (all except Dolly of course, who got one of the young fellows to go and collect her bag and cart it up to reception) to have breakfast before the 9am shuttle to Sepilok. Turns out as there were other guests that also wanted the shuttle to go see the orangutans, we had to wait for it to come back and collect us. No matter, as our pick up was not until 10.30am so we had lots of time to have an iced coffee before we noticed Mr Aji in the café also having a morning beverage.

After a quick briefing and payment of 1980myr (495myr = $168) we were loading the luggage into 2 cars, as there was us 4 and 2 others – a couple from Wales. The $168 is the total price for our 3day 2nights inclusive. This covers 2-night accommodation in air con twin room x 2, a couple of boat trips up the river to see wild life and a couple of jungle walks – hopefully to see the same. Dinner x 2, lunch x 1 & breakfast x 2. Mr Aji had great reviews on TripAdvisor, so I hope he lives up to the comments left by previous clients. The young couple were taken in one car and we 4 ladies were driven by Mr Aji himself in another car, the interior of which was covered in photos of Borneo’s wild life. There was also a photo of Mr Aji and Mr Wildlife himself – David Attenborough – adorning the back-interior wall of the vehicle.

It was just over a 2-hour drive to the river village and we stopped about an hour in at a town where we could buy socks if needed and snacks for the boat tours and lunch. It was only 12 noon, but he advised dinner would not be until after 6 so best we eat. Dolly bought some sexy stripped socks and Robyn bought socks and shoes as she did not bring any closed in shoes with her from home. We then went to a restaurant selling Indian food for the cheapest lunch we have had in Borneo. Here we paid local prices and the food was ok.

Back in the car, up until now Mr Aji had not said much at all, but one mention of the palm plantations that were lining both sides of the road was enough to set him off. He is very passionate about wildlife and preserving the forest – or at least what remains of it. There was a KFC where we had stopped for lunch and I stupidly joked we could have gone there for lunch. This is what started Mr Aji off, he says it’s all the ‘fast food’ places of the world that demand the palm oil that is being grown here in not only Borneo but the whole of Malaysia. He advised we should always boycott the likes of KFC, Maccas, Burger King and the like to cut down on the demand for palm oil. He also advised we discontinue the use of any cosmetics etc that use palm oil. He said we should stop eating chocolate!! He also threw in the plight for single use plastic bottles while he was at it. When I asked ‘didn’t the restaurant we just all ate in use palm oil’ he was quick to answer that locals use a very small percentage of the oil that is produced in Borneo – and yes that is true, but they are still using it also. Anyway, interestingly he advised that most of – like 95% - of the palm plantations are Chinese owned. The land sold off or leased to them by Malaysian politicians who fill their own pockets and the coffers. But this means that all the money from these plantations in Borneo goes straight to China! None of it stays in Malaysia. And to make things worse the Chinese bring in their own laborers from China, so there are not even jobs for the local people. He told us there was a law passed in 1997 that no more jungle in Borneo could be logged and cleared for any more palm plantations. Unfortunately, a lot of the damage is done and so many animal numbers are down. Numbers cannot be increased even now because there is nowhere for them to live.

When we arrived at Sukah village and our accommodation for the next 2 nights we were shown to our rooms and advised to meet back at 2.30pm for the first afternoon boat trip.

No rain today, and the sun was shining out of a blue sky. Although our boat had seats with backs – thank goodness – there was no cover as this would obscure any viewing, so it was very hot out on the river. We did catch a little breeze from the movement which was a bonus. Just before we took off, Mr Aji advised he’d had a phone call that the pigmy elephants were upstream and if we were willing to pay an extra 20myr = $6.80 each for extra fuel we could take us up there to see if we could find them. Of course, we all agreed and of course we did not see them. They are still wild animals, not in a cage or enclosure and they are not controlled where they go. We still had a great boat tour and saw 3 out of the 8 different hornbill birds of Borneo and 3 different types of monkeys. 2 crocodiles – 1 large and one baby. A few other different birds and loads of boats filled to the brim with tourists, most of which headed out in the direction of the elephant sightings more than an hour after us. We were out from 2.30 to 6pm and arrived back just as our accommodation and surrounding buildings lost power.

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A generator was connected, and we had power again for dinner at 6.30pm. Rice, soy chicken and pumpkin in coconut milk was the dinner we were served, pretty good, certainly as good as the meals we had been having at our last accommodation. After dinner at 7.30pm we did an hour’s night walk through the jungle which was a hot and sweat torch walk through the trees not seeing much at all. A few hornbills up in the trees asleep, a common old rat in a tree trying to escape our torch light and at the very end a skunk being stalked by a local black cat. Yes, who knew Borneo had skunks? We only knew before this because there was one squashed dead on the road near our accommodation that we saw a few days ago.
The restaurant where we ate dinner sold us a few cold cokes to have with the last of our rum, then showers and bed.

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We have to be up early tomorrow for a jungle walk at 7am before breakfast.

Sunday 28th October 2018 – day 122 River Kinabatangan

We assembled in reception at 7am, all kitted up for our early morning walk in the jungle. We pretty much walked the same path we did on the night walk and pretty much saw the same things = nothing, as we did last night. Mr Aji did point out a few plants that had local municipal value, but he lost my respect when he left a chocolate bar wrapper shoved into a tree trunk after our brief stop. He seemed so passionate about preserving the jungle yet couldn’t be bothered taking out his own litter. Just seemed very weird to me.
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Back before 9am and we all opted for showers before having breakfast. Our time was free for the rest of the day until 2.30 pm when we went out on the river again. Most of us went back and had a nap then hung around, Dolly went for a walk into the village but did not discover anything interesting enough to warrant the rest of us walk up there. She just wanted to get her step count up.

From 2.30 until just before dark we were on the river. Saw lots of monkeys – mostly long tail macaques. Mr Aji was able to take the boat up really close to them, so we got lots of good photos. It was funny to watch them cross a monkey bridge, which was a rope swung high above the river for them to cross. We also so a numerous proboscis monkeys, great to see these in the wild as well has having seen them close in the feeding sanctuary.

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Mr Aji did have a pretty good eye at spotting the wildlife, he managed to see a bearded pig and zoomed the boat in towards the shore line with just enough time for us to see the pig before it bolted off into the jungle. I managed to get a quick snap and saw there were 2 little piglets hot on the mother’s tail when she retreated into the bushes.

Dinner was from the menu tonight, we could choose what we wanted.

These 2 days on the Kinabatangan River have been good. I’m also glad that we went to the sanctuaries and saw the animals up close. However, it was great seeing the ones we did see in the wild. Unfortunately, we did not manage to see the pigmy elephants, which the only place to see them and we did not see any orangutans in the wild. But, the animals are in such low numbers that you really have to be very lucky to see them in the wild. I personally, am a little disappointed but also understand that its pot luck to see anything in the wild so I guess we were lucky to see as much as we did. One bonus was we spotted 4 of the 8 species of hornbill birds so that was a privilege.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:28 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

2018 OCT 23 - 26 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Sepilok

ORANGUTANS, SUN BEARS & FUNNY NOSE MONKEYS!

semi-overcast

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Tuesday 23rd October 2018 – day 117 KK to Sandakan to Sepilok

KK to Sandakan

Today the alarm went off at 6am, I don’t know about the others, but I sure as hell did not like being awake at this time of day. But we needed to get up and be ready to call a GRAB at 7am to take us to the airport for our 8.45am flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, which is on the east coast, less than an hour’s flight away.

Stupidly, I had not packed my suitcase last night so after getting dressed this of course was my urgent task. The other ladies seemed to be much more organized than be, but there you go.

I called the condo people to advise we were leaving, and they said just to leave the keys on the dining table, so that is what we did before locking and pulling the door closed behind us. Amazingly, we were at the front gate at 7am and I called a GRAB car to take us to the airport. 15 myr = $5.00, which was a much better price than the 30 myr we paid from the airport. This sim card and credit has almost paid for itself already on the money we saved on a taxi. Luckily, the car was big enough for all 4 of us and luggage.

The short drive to the airport got us there in plenty of time to check-in, drop our bags, have breakfast at Maccas and make our way to the departure gate.
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The Air Asia flight was just about full and took less than the time it took for the hosties to serve us our meals and we eat them. We were still finishing up our 2nd breakfast for the day when the plane started its decent for landing.

Sandakan Airport was a lot flasher than what I was expecting. I thought we would unload into a tin shed, but this was a proper fancy airport. We collected our bags and I again called for a GRAB to take us to our accommodation for the next 4 nights. Unfortunately, the car that turned up was not big enough for all our luggage and us, so he stopped another GRAB car and talked the guy into taking me and some of our luggage. Dolly had asked in at the airport taxi stand and they quoted 42 myr for our destination. We managed to get 2 cars for 15 myr each and I gave them both a 2 myr tip for helping with the baggage, so total cost was 34 myr – big saving of 8 myr! But we may have had to take 2 airport taxis also, and that would have cost 42 x 2!

Paganakan Dii Retreat was about 20km from the airport and took about 30mins to drive there. We were shown to our bungalow in the jungle, which has a set of bunk beds (guess who got the top bunk) and a double bed. Air conditioning, ceiling fan, ensuite bathroom with hot shower and toilet. The small balcony gives us a fabulous view of the jungle around us. This is the area where we are hopefully going to start to see some Borneo wildlife. We are here for 4 nights @ 1040my = $347 or $87 per night including breakfast and free transfers to the nearby conservation sanctuaries.

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Mid-morning until just before 2, when we took the van to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, we just hung around the bungalow and relaxed. I think some needed a bit of time to adjust to our basic? Surroundings.

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The RDC cost 15myr each to get in and was basically an aerial canopy walk through the forest. Some of the trees were just amazing – so tall and straight. Apparently, this is a great bird watching place, but to tell the truth besides one eagle that Robyn spied in a tree we did not see many birds at all. We did also see a couple of long tailed brown squirrels, which we managed to photograph before they scurried away, but other than those it was just the magnificent trees and giant leafed plants that we able to admire.

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Our accommodation van took us back to our accommodation at 4pm, after we had a walk through the very sad flower garden, which did not have hardly any flowers at all.

We ventured up to the restaurant from our bungalow at around 6pm. The menu is very limited, and although the prices are a little more expensive they are not too bad. We ordered meals and the food was not fantastic, but we are a bit of a captive audience here as there is nowhere else around for us to go to eat.

Not long after dinner and before we got up to return to the bungalow we were hit by a fantastic thunder and lightening storm. I’m pretty sure the building we were sheltered under was hit by a lightening strike as the power went off, sparks lit up the darkness like fireworks and the whole place shook. No one was hurt, although one of the girls had a fall in the kitchen due to being scared by the lightening strike and hurt her back a little. The downpour of rain prevented us from returning to our room. The power came back on minutes later, but we hung around for about half an hour waiting for the rain to easy.

And ease it did to a spit and we returned to our bungalow which had no power and halfway through my shower no water. Robyn braved the spitting rain to return to reception to advise the staff and soon we were rescued by a guy flicking the fuse back on and getting the water going again.

We are all now in bed and the storm seems to have died off. The rain has shopped and there is no sound of thunder. The only noise I hear now is the air con blowing next to me – remember I’m on the top bunk, and the sounds of frogs and insects outside in the jungle. Ok guys, time to shut up as we need to get to sleep – fat chance, nature seems to be rejoicing in the coolness of the cleansing storm.

Tomorrow we visit the orangutans!

Wednesday 24th October 2018 – day 118 Sepilok

Robyn sounded the wake-up call at 8am, we had to have breakfast before the 9am van took us into Sepilok for the day. It’s only about 5km away, but too far to walk in the heat here if we can get a free ride.

Breakfast is included in our room rate and we were served a fried egg (as in deep fried egg – the way the Asians love to cook their fried eggs) a sausage (which was some kind of over-over processed chicken, I think) and toast. Tea and something they were calling coffee was included too. It was enough to give us a start to the day, although I was the only one who braved eating the sausage.

The van dropped us off at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at about 9.15am. We purchased entry tickets 30 myr each and 3 of us paid for camera/phone to be able to take photos 10 myr each. You are not allowed to take any bags into the area, so we had to check them into the free lockers. On entering we were directed along the boardwalk through the jungle to the nursery area. This is where they have the first feeding and supposedly only the younger orangutans come to this platform.

We were already on a high before even getting to the nursery as we had already seen an orangutan in the trees and a mother with baby ahead of us on the boardwalk railing. The viewing at the nursery was not the best as the people are all behind glass to it was difficult to take photos, it was a bit like a zoo situation, although the animals were not in cages, the humans were. But it was the same feeling.

Soon we were all ushered back onto the boardwalk and told to head towards the feeding platform. This is where we saw magnificence. We saw lots of different orangutans that came to feed from the bananas that were thrown onto the platform. At the feedings they are only given a monotonous diet of bananas which they get bored with, forcing them to forage in the jungle for a variety of foods. This is all part of the rehabilitation program which seems to be working as they have released a few back into the wild.

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Anyway, we managed to see lots of the orange primates including mother with tiny babies hanging onto their mothers’ fur for dear life as they swung on the ropes or from the tree branches. They were amazing.

As the bananas dwindled away, so did the orangutans. We wandered back to the nursery to check out if any had returned to there. We had all day to kill as our van back was at 4pm.

Just across the road from the orangutan centre is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, so of course we had to visit there as well. Entry fee was again 30myr each. The Sun Bears in this sanctuary are all bears that have been rescued from people who purchased them as cute little cubs, or from private zoos. It is illegal to keep Sun Bears in Malaysia and now there are hefty fines imposed. The Asians also used to kill these beautiful calm little bears to collect their bile ducts for some medical use. There is one man who has established this centre to save these bears and release them back into the wild once they are fit and healthy again. Most of them were received in terrible condition and all were very stress and have childhood trauma from being kept in small cages for most of their life.

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We were lucky enough to see one of these agile little bears climb up a tree to get some leaves and slide back down like a fireman on a greased pole. Credit to these wonderful people who are out there trying to save the amazing animals of their country. Unfortunately, both the orangutans and sun bears are losing their natural habitat to the clearing of forests for palm tree farms. This is a whole other subject of which I can understand both sides of the coin but won’t go into it here.

After visiting the sun bears we crossed back over the road and went for lunch at the café/restaurant at the orangutan centre. The room was air conditioned and the food was priced ok, so we spent about an hour there in the cool and had some food. This brought us up to the time for the afternoon orangutan feeding at 3pm.

Walking back to the feeding platform, a guy already there pointed up to tree as we arrived. There was a mother and baby who climbed along a rope over to the platform just as the big male orangutan arrived at the platform too. Wow, this was a great family photo opportunity! Mum, Dad and baby – amazing. They were the only animals that we saw at the afternoon feeding, apparently the other orangutans and monkeys will not appear when this giant male is present. We didn’t mind because we enjoyed a great experience with just the 3 of them.

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What a great day we had today. This is what we come to Borneo for to see these amazing creatures and we were definitely not disappointed.
Before joining the van, we grabbed a cold drink from the café and some takeaways to have with our rum back at the bungalow.

The sky today, although full of fluffy white clouds, was mostly a brilliant blue. It was hot and humid, so we all needed a shower to wash off the days sweat, but what a great day!

First up showers for everyone, then dinner at the accommodation.

Thursday 25th October 2018 – day 119 Sepilok

I was awoken several times during the night by the sound of rain falling on the roof. Not a problem, I went back to sleep thinking it’s ok if it rains in the night, then the days will be clear. Wishful dreaming on my part, when we woke it was still raining, but only lightly. We managed to walk up to the restaurant for breakfast without getting wet.

Wasn’t long before the rain became heavier and we decided to hang out to see if it would easy off. Our plan for today was to catch a GRAB car to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, which is about 25km from our accommodation. The sanctuary has 4 feedings per day at 2 different platforms, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. No animal is going to come out in the pouring rain even if they are getting easy food, so we decided to wait until the afternoon hoping the weather would clear a little.

Seems the sun gods were shining on us as the rain eased by about 11am and the sun started to peek through. The afternoon feeds were at 2.30 and 4.30 so we decided to call a car and drive over and have lunch at the sanctuary then go to these 2 afternoon feeds. By the time we arrived at the ticket gate the sun was out and there was lots of blue sky, so we had made the correct decision.

What we didn’t know was that the feeding platforms were 3km from the ticket gate and then they were 1km apart from each other. Luckily our car had not driven off in a hurry as it was obvious that we were going to need him for the entire visit. What started off as a cheap 20 myr = $7 GRAB ride, turned into a 135myr = $46 charter for the day. This was still very cheap for just $11.50 per person, we had a car and driver to take us there and back and then wait around for 5 hours and drive us back and forth between the 2 view platforms. There was no way we could have walked this as the day had turned very hot very quick with no shade along the roadside.

Entry was a hefty 60 myr = $20 per person (double the price of the orangutans and sun bears) plus 10 myr for cameras. But by the end of the day, we all agreed the entry fee was worth it.

Our driver firstly drove us to the platform B area as this was where the restaurant was. Food was basic and moderately priced and nothing spectacular. We had our first glimpses of the funny nosed monkeys from our lunch room. At 2pm we were driven back to platform A for the 2.30pm feeding.

Wow! What beautiful creatures these proboscis monkeys are! Why they don’t get as much attention as the orangutans of Borneo I don’t know. Perhaps they are not endangered as their fellow red headed primates. We were able to view 2 different families at this first feeding. One of the families had a 20-year-old alfa male, who was just as handsome as they come – a magnificent specimen who was kind enough to spend a lot of time posing for us. He even stayed behind after all the other monkeys had cleared the platforms after the food was all eaten.

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We saw many females with cute little young ones at various ages – these guys were amazing with their little protruding noses just starting to grow.
After about an hour our driver took us back to platform B where we just had enough time to have a cool drink before walking the short boardwalk to the viewing area. Waiting patiently were already a group of silver leaf monkeys who did not seem to be bothered by human presence at all.

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They were all sitting up on the wooden railings and did not make a move as we or anyone came close. They also did not try to jump or grab at us or our bags or cameras. They just seemed to be happy sitting and being photographed waiting for their free meal.

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When the spattering of food was thrown out for the proboscis monkeys they started coming out of the forest in droves. I have not idea how many there were or how many different families there were in this area but there were a lot. And although no giant males like we saw earlier, there were quite a few big males and they were yelling and chasing each other across the roof and into the jungle. Not sure who exactly was the boss in this lot, obviously there must have been a few and they were all trying to keep their patch in order.

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We saw a lot of proboscis monkeys today! What an amazing experience. Like yesterday, I took over 300 photos! Lots of little baby monkeys clinging to their mothers as they sprang from the ground to branches and up onto the platforms. When mum stopped the little ones would try to struggle away from them to explore a little, but mother would always grab them and take flight at the slightest disturbance.

We also saw a couple of hornbills today. One that the feeders called down to be fed and another as we were driving out.

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Returning to our accommodation I was happy to pay the driver the charter amount, he seemed to be happy with the amount he was paid for the day too.

The weather had stayed dry all afternoon for us, again sunny, hot and humid so showers for all of us was the first thing back in the bungalow.

Dinner was a little later than last night, but as I write this at 9.30pm all the ladies are down below (I’m in the top bunk remember) gently snoring.

Friday 26th October 2018 – day 120 Sepilok

Rest day today. We all lazed around in bed until a mad panic at 9.30 when we all had to get up and get dressed to make breakfast which finished at 10am.

Blue sky today, still cloudy, but it does not look like it will rain at all today. We lingered after breakfast, then meandered back to our bungalow where we continued our rest day.

2pm we caught the shuttle into Sepilok to have lunch at the orangutan centre café just for a change of scenery. And it was air conditioned, so we were happy to sit in there and chat until the return shuttle at 4pm. We bought some cokes for mixers, so we could lessen our duty-free rum a little more back at the accommodation.

Due to our late lunch we did not head up for dinner until about 7pm. Quite a few guests here tonight and we sat chatting with an English lady travelling by herself who seemed a little bit too keen in meeting up with us in Kuching next week.

We are all rested and ready for our next destination near the River Kinabatangan.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:52 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kinabatangan orangutan sabah probosics Comments (6)

2018 OCT 20 - 22 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kota Kinabalu

BORNEO HERE WE ARE!

sunny 30 °C

Hello Blog Readers!

Yes, I am still on the same 2018 trip, just have not been writing or keeping a blog for the last few months. My last blog was when Mitch and I were about to fly out of France to Malta at the end of July after our bike ride. If you follow me on Facebook you would have seen we had a fabulous time in Malta and Gozo Islands during August. I never do a blog while in Malta as it is always the part of my travels that is all holiday and relaxation. We met up with Dolly and Trish in Malta and also had a great day with Andreia and Lena who called in for one day off their cruise ship.

After Malta, Mitch and I flew to Portugal mid August. We again met up with Andreia and Lena in Porto and spent a week travelling with them in our hire cars. It had been 20 years since Mitch and I had worked at Lisbon Expo 1998 and this visit to Portugal was a bit of an anniversary trip. We visited old places we had been before and a few new places. Again, if you follow me on Facebook you would have seen all the photos etc. We had a car for 3 weeks, then spent a week in Lisbon re-visiting the city we knew so well many years ago.

We ended our time in Europe with a 4 day stopover in Northern Italy. A few days by Lake Maggoire was amazing - photos on Facebook. These couple of days really gave a taste of how beautiful this part of the country is. I hope to return again and explore the other Italian lakes and the surrounding area one day.

So, that brings us to the last week in September when we flew from Europe to Asia. We again met up with Dolly and spent just over 3 weeks travelling through Cambodia, another favourite of mine and if you did follow on Facebook you would have seen a lot of eating and drinking was the time consumer in this county.

I did not keep a blog for these last few months as I was either too lazy, or did not want to write again about places I have previously been and shared. However today a new adventure and a new destination begins which I am happy to share with you all if you are interested in following us. Malaysian Borneo is a destination I have not yet visited, and although it is the wet season and we are sure to have some rainy days, we also hope to discover new and interesting sights.

Thursday 18th October we, Dolly, Mitch & I, flew from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Just a quick 2 night stopover before Mitch flying home back to Australia on the 20th and Dolly & I flying to Kota Kinabula to meet up with Miss April and Miss Robyn who flew in from Australia.

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Saturday 20th October 2018 – day 114 KL to KK

An early morning start, we were in the taxi to the airport from our Chinatown hotel by 7.30am. It's a good hours drive to the airport and as Mitch's flight back to Brisbane departure time was 10.30 am we had to be there by 8.30 am for him to check in. Our flight, Dolly's and mine, to Kota Kinabalu was due to depart at 11.15 am, a little later but we all caught the same taxi (110 myr = aud $37.15). Of course we were leaving from different terminals so we dropped Mitch off first. I hope he had a good time during the last few months of travelling around, but I think he was happy to be on his way home.

Terminal 2 was just 5 minutes further and the driver dropped Dolly and I off and requested an additional payment to the 100 myr he quoted. I passed him an extra 10 myr and he seemed to be happy with that. We had a little time to kill but were able to check in our bags straight away, which we did then headed to Maccas for some breakfast. We chose Maccas as we'd had a request from Robyn to collect some salt sachets which we may need later to remove any leeches which may attach themselves to us while in Borneo. Ok, good handful of salt sachets later and we were ready for our flight.

Air Asia flight from KL to KK was just under 3 hours long. We landed about 10 minutes ahead of schedule at about 1.45pm. It was hot, with a cloudy blue sky - a lovely welcome to Borneo for us.
Immigration added to our Malaysian entry stamp with 'Sabah entered 20-10-2018'. We collected our bags, and purchased a taxi voucher (30 myr = aud $10.13) flat rate out of airport, no meters are used, so I was advised. Our pre-booked apartment was about 15 minute drive from the airport. Lucky there was a guy there to meet us and give the keys and show the 2 bedroom apartment. All good, home of next 3 nights - 747.10 myr = aud $252.34.
I sent a message to April & Robyn (who arrived last night and spent the night in a nearby hotel) that we had arrived and to come on over. They caught a taxi and soon we were all sitting around chatting, catching up.
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The Marina Court Condo has a washing machine and I was already putting that to use as we sat around talking. Just before it got dark we decided to head out to find a supermarket to get some supplies. After a little walking around we were finally given directions to a supermarket where we were able to purchase breakfast supplies (tray of 30 eggs which Dolly will be turning into poached eggs over the next 3 mornings), bread, milk etc.

And of course some much needed mixer for our duty free drinks we all had purchased.
On the way to the market we had passed a seafood restaurant which had tanks full of the sea creatures you could order off the menu. Not going to get any fresher than that. Robyn and I shared 5 mud crabs for 25 myr = aud $8.44, they were a little small by Australia standards but they were yummy, we opted for just boiled, no chilly or ginger or garlic to spoil the taste of the crustaceans. April ordered garlic prawns small and ended up with 1/2 kilo of the freshly cooked buggers for 37 myr = aud $12.50 and Dolly ordered sweet and sour chicken 17 myr = aud $ 5.74 - she doesn't like seafood. But I do, and if this is any indication of the seafood in Borneo then I am going to be very happy eating here.
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We are of course here to see nature and the animals that are only here in Borneo.
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After dinner we returned to the condo to enjoy some duty free drinks.

Sunday 21st October 2018 – day 115 Kota Kinabalu

We woke up to wet streets, so it had obviously rained during the night. None of us heard it and the sun was shining brightly by the time we all got up. Dolly cooked us all poached eggs for breakfast from the massive tray of eggs we purchased last night. One of many an egg meal we will be enjoying over the next couple of days.

There is a market every Sunday in Kota Kinabalu that we walked to this morning. The market sold an assortment of things, from touristy to food to kittens and puppies in tiny cages. There was a few people walking around the markets but it was not too crowded.
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After about an hour of wandering around the market we were hot and exhausted, so headed a few blocks away to a huge shopping mall, an air conditioned shopping mall.
We found a food court and had some lunch, then wandered around inside the cool a little longer.

A few more blocks away was the public jetty where boats leave to visit the nearby islands. We are thinking about doing a day trip tomorrow so walked up there to see what was available. A day trip to 2 islands was ok priced until we were advised about the 'island terminal' which doubled the price of the day trip. I think we are still going to do it as it works out to about $20 each for the day.

It had been raining a little while we were inside the shopping mall, but we managed to walk back to the condo without getting wet. It did not rain again until late in the afternoon, with a good downpour just before 6pm.

We spend the afternoon watching movies on TV and sitting around. Too lazy to head outside in the wet for some dinner, we got Dolly to whip us up some scrambled eggs for dinner, putting a dent in the tray of eggs.

Big walking day today, everyone did over their 10,000 fitbit steps.

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Monday 22nd October 2018 – day 116 Kota Kinabalu nearby islands

We had a great day today, up early to enjoy Dolly's poached eggs for breakfast before embarking on our day of island hopping.

A tout had approached us yesterday trying to sell boat trips, so we advised we would be back in the morning. His deal was as good as the others we had spoken to during our walk up to the boat jetty, but this guy was a lot closer to our condo so we didn't have to walk far. He managed to upsell to us and for just a couple of dollars extra each we could hire a private boat for 200myr = $68 to take us to 2 separate islands of our choice and more or less we could dictate the departure times.
The weather looked a little overcast, but it had not rained this morning as yet, and we hoped it would get brighter as the day grew.
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Our first island of choice was Palau Sapi, April had read about an interisland zip line that she was interested in doing. It was around 10 when we arrived and there were already people on the beach and more in the water mostly snorkelling. This island is the most popular choice for people who are just doing one island, I think it may be the closest one or the fastest to get to one. Anyway, we found our bit of sand for our belongings and headed for the water, which was a nice temperature, not too warm, still refreshing. April did not come in as she wanted to stay dry for her zip line in 30 minutes. After a cool off, we exited the water and promptly returned with our face mask snorkels. Ok, so we may look like aliens in these things, but they are the best to snorkel with and the easiest to use as Dolly soon discovered when giving Aprils a try for the first time. She has now added this item to her xmas wish list (hope you're reading this Sarina!).
There were lots of fish to been seen just here off the beach.

April went off to do her zip line, she was taken in a boat to the nearby Gaya Island and zipped across the water back to Sapi Island. I walked over to the jetty to see if I could see her, and managed to photograph everyone except April going across. (sorry :-() Below picture is the gap between the two islands with the zip line going across.

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11.30am we returned to the jetty for our boat to take us to the next island, Palau Mamutik. This is the one that many of the touts advised was best for snorkelling as there is lots of coral just off the beach. By the time we left Sapi beach was very crowded and even more people in the water which made snorkelling very difficult trying not to swim into someone. Mamutik was only about 15 minutes away by boat, the sea was a little choppy and we did get a little splashed.
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First things first, we decided to have lunch before we tried the beach here. We were greeted by a small water monitor that was eating a stolen prawn from somewhere and had lunch in the small restaurant that was hiding behind the big dinning area used for the 45 myr buffet. Our lunch was under 15 myr each.
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After lunch we all walked over to the beach for a swim and snorkel. Wow, the fish life here was amazing. So many fish, and lots of different types and colours and shapes. It was great, unfortunately my underwater camera battery was flat so could not take any pictures. Just 2 metres off the beach was lots of coral and swarming with fish. The snorkel masks are great, the fish come right up to the glass and tap on it. Freaked me out at first but then was quite fun. The little buggers like to have a bit of a nibble on us occasionally too, a particular hungry fish biting my arm and drawing blood. All good, nothing too savage, these are not piranha fish.

The afternoon had turned into a beautiful hot sunny day and all of us got a little sun burnt. The water was lovely and so clear.

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We called the boat back in to collect us at about 2.30pm. It is notorious that the weather usually turns bad around 3-4 and we did not want to be on the water when that happened as the waves would get quite big which would mean a rough ride back.

The washing machine got a good workout on our return to the condo. Everything as in towels, sarongs, clothing and togs needed to be laundered and hung up to dry before tomorrow when we check out of here. With the machine going we realized we had not used the condo swimming pool as yet and it was now or never. Caught the lift back down and spent about an hour down by the pool. It was huge and very clean. We naughtily used it to rinse the salty water from our bodies.
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After the 2nd load of washing was washed and hung out to dry, we headed out to find some dinner. First off we needed to get a local sim card for my phone so we would be able to use GRAB (same as UBER) to get back to the airport tomorrow and to use for other transport in other locations. Because taxis are very cheap here and distances in towns are very short, the drivers refuse to put on the meter which means we get grossly overcharged for any taxi ride. Well this stops now with using the GRAB app, no more overinflated priced rides. We found a phone shop and I asked the young guy to put the sim into my phone and set it up. We purchased some extra credit and when we returned to the condo I tested out the GRAB app and it all seemed to be working. Lets hope there is someone up early tomorrow to take us to the airport.

We opted for dinner in the food court of the mall where we bought the sim. Dined at Borenos - which is the Borneo equivalent of KFC, but much cheaper and they use loads more garlic. 3 pieces of chicken, coleslaw, mash potato with gravy and drink for 14.75myr = $4.99.DSCN2481.JPG

We were lucky today, it didn't actually rain until after we had dinner and it was only a light shower that we had to walk home in.

So, that was our first few days in Borneo. Tomorrow we take a short flight to Sandakan - to the east coast - to where the wildlife hopefully will present itself.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 07:53 Archived in Malaysia Tagged sabah Comments (3)

2017 OCTOBER - MALAYSIA KL TO MERSING TO TIOMAN ISLAND

OUR LAST TWO WEEKS OF HOLIDAY SPENT IN A LITTLE SLICE OF PARADISE

DAY 257 FRIDAY 20TH OCTOBER 2017

KUALA LUMPUR TO MERSING BY BUS

Our last breakfast at Ancasa. It sure has been a nice stay here, and I think future budgets might be stretched to afford a repeat stay here at this nice hotel. And the staff have been nice too, the breakfast is a bonus (even if most of the food is cold – true Asian style).

The bellboy was called up to help us with our luggage and then he went out and flagged us a taxi to take us to the bus station. Unfortunately, he already agreed on a set price with the taxi driver and when we requested he turn on the meter he said he could not as he had already given the bellboy his tip for picking him. So, we had to pay 35myr = aud $10.12, which is not much for a 20-minute taxi ride, but it would have been less on the meter.

Other times when we have caught the bus to Mersing it was from the bus station that is right here in Chinatown, only meters from this hotel we are staying at. But it seems since our last bus journey there has been a station upgrade to a completely different bus station with is now on the south side of the city. This is a little bit of a pain instead of just walking to the bus, we now must get a taxi, which probably works our better with our luggage anyway.

TSB station sure was an upgrade from the old crappy building we used to go to, where touts would accoster you before you were even out of the taxi. I had purchased tickets online 33 myr = aud $9.82 a few days ago so just needed to go to the desk to get a ticket print out and the correct gate. There was a bit of a line but we soon had tickets and were sitting in the departure lounge. We were in plenty of time, only to have our bus delayed for whatever reason. Instead of departing at 12.30 we left just after one, in a completely different bus to what I booked. Never to mind we were lucky enough to get 2 seats each as the bus was not full, and this made the 5 ½ hour ride more comfortable.

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I slept most of the bus ride, so can’t really say anything about it. I do know that we drive past acres & acres of palm trees – for palm oil. There was a toilet stop at some stage where some people ate, we had some food left over that we took with us and Lyn had made a flash of coffee, which was now very much appreciated.

Back on the bus, we were arriving at Mersing bus station before we knew it – think I had another nap.

While at the bus station I purchased our bus tickets to take us to Singapore at the end of the month. Not sure if we will get internet on Tioman Island to be able to book online.

Taxi to the hotel, because we seemed to be too exhausted to drag all our luggage there. He didn’t want to bargain, just said 20myr = aud $5.95 while looking at our luggage and knowing we would not refuse him. Checked in and had a choice of 2nd floor in main building or 1st floor in building across the road. We went for the 1st floor room, not realizing it was a cave room = no window to the outside. Ah it did have a window, but it was a window to the hallway. We didn’t care, for 80myr = aud $23.81 for one night it was fine. A big step down from our last few nights. More like back to the standard we usually have.

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We left the little room to go for a wander around Mersing, it seemed to have grown since our last visit. We wanted to make sure the ferry still left from the same place – which it did. And we wanted to find a place to buy some supplies we want to take with us to Tioman. We found a few shops for supplies and tried to find the night market where we used to always eat. It was like in a clearing which we thought was on the main road, with numerous food stall to choose from and lots of communal seating. This place was either gone or we were just in the wrong area, but it was getting late so we just opted for a roadside eatery, that may have ended up being a mistake.

Firstly, the waiter did not speak English and the menu was not in English, not that I am saying they should speak English it was more the case of what can we order, or what do we order. I knew the Malay word for chicken, which is usually a safe bet, but was informed no chicken. Ok next, I said noodles? Yes. Good. Meat?? Meat?? Oh, just bring anything - not spicy. Well he understood the anything – but not the not spicy. We ended up with what looked like a can of spaghetti mixed with chilli sauce. Lyn got a few bits of meat? We waited over an hour for this culinary delight and were so hungry by then that we both ate it all. At least it was cheap – 14 myr = aud $4.17 for both of us including an ice coffee & chai.

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DAY 258 SATURDAY 21ST OCTOBER 2017

MERSING TO TIOMAN ISLAND BY FERRY

Lyn set the alarm for this morning because in our cave room with no windows to the outside we cannot tell if it’s day or night outside. Our ferry to Tioman is not until 11.30, but we wanted to pick up a few things that we are taking to the island and needed to find breakfast. Also, we needed to take our luggage to the building across the road for storage.

Walking out on the street we were both happy to note it was not a windy day, this meant for smooth sailing across to the island. We have travelled this trip a couple of times before and it does tend to get rough, and one of us is very prone to seasickness so we are hoping for a calm crossing. Just in case we had both swallowed a couple of sea sickness pills just to be sure, these needed to be taken 2 hours before travel.

Of course, most of the shops did not open until 10am so we were too early for most of them. As for breakfast, neither Lyn or I seemed too excited about eating a meal before getting on the ferry, but I did grab a banana & walnut muffin each, which we ended up eating on the ferry.

The shops finally opened, and we picked up the supplies we wanted to take. Next was to carry our locked bags that we were leaving behind down the stairs and across the road for storage. Of course, there was a different lady on the reception this morning, however she seemed to be ok with the storage of our bags in what looked like a narrow utility cupboard. As always when we stored luggage I did a short prayer hoping they would still be there on our return.

10.15am, so we started the short walk to the ferry terminal. It was a short walk but in the already very hot & humid morning these bags, with just a few things for the island, seemed to weigh a ton and we had several stops on the way.

I had booked the ferry tickets online last week, 70 myr = aud $20.84 so when we reached the terminal I just had to go and collect the tickets. There was also a marine environmental fee to be paid which was 30 myr = aud $8.93 for me and only 15myr = aud $4.47 – because her age bracket is classed as a senior citizen and they get half price. Lol, sometimes it pays to be older.

All this toing and froing and I was starting to overheat. Needed to just sit down and cool down a bit. The departure terminal was not very crowded, and we were able to take a seat to wait for the ferry to arrive.

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Lyn went and lined up to change the tickets for our boarding pass and soon the ferry arrived for us to board. There was no worry about getting a seat as the ferry was almost completely empty. This is off season and we have never been to Tioman at this time of year, but needed have worried about pre- booking as I think there was a total of about 30 passengers on the boat. This was good, meant we could have a row of seats to ourselves.

We went out the back of the ferry to take a photo of us leaving Mersing but soon returned to the air con cabin when we realized outside was the smoking area. We both lay down across our row of seats and we both managed to sleep most of the way across the sea. I don’t think it was anywhere near as rough as other trips, but sleeping though it was a good move, and it also made the 2-hour trip fly by.

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I woke, looked out the window to the first glimpses of Tioman Island.

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Our stop was just a little further up the coast and soon we were gazing upon our old familiar Salang beach. Climbing out of the ferry and onto the jetty confirmed our first thoughts – that things had not changed, it still looked exactly the same.

The struggle with our bags from the jetty to our resort, Salang Sayang, did not seem so bad as I think we were eager to arrive. At reception we were greeted by our old friend Jimmy who gave us both a big hug. We met Jimmy the first time we came to Salang years ago. This is our 4th visit and we have been welcomed by him every time. It’s nice to be remembered, these resorts must get hundreds if not thousands of people over the years, it’s nice to know that we stand out.

Previously when we stayed here, we have stayed in the sea view bungalows with 1 double bed, fan and cold shower. This time I pre-booked (back in November last year) the air con, hot shower, 2 double bed, bigger bungalow. And after seeing it I was really glad we went for the bigger, more expensive option – ah this room has a fridge as well which the others don’t. And the resort gave me a great discount for booking in advance and because we were return customers. This room is usually 240myr per night, 260myr per night on weekends, but we got it for a flat rate of 180myr = aud $53.81. Now you might think this is quite expensive for a bungalow on a remote island, but just think – it’s a bungalow on a remote island.

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After settling in (dropping our bags on the floor and using the loo) we went for a walk along the pathway to see what has changed. We noticed a few extra buildings added to some of the other resorts. Seemed to be all the same shops as before. Biggest change is that now NONE of the restaurants serve beer!! This is a predominately Muslim island and previously only a handful of the restaurant’s sold and served beer/alcohol. Our resort never stocked beer – we already knew that. But the bar where we used to have a sunset beer everyday was now a juice bar! We asked the bar tender and he advised no-one serves alcohol anymore. Not that we must have a beer every day, it was just nice to do so while watching the sunset over the jetty. Another dead tradition.

Luckily, the bottle shop is still in existence. All they stock is Tiger beer stubbies @ 4 myr = aud $1.19, so on the walk back we stopped and promptly purchased a 6 pack of Tiger which cost us 20myr = aud$5.95. We are not sure if the guys mathematics were no good or if there was a discount for purchasing a 6 pack, but we were again happy we went for the room with the fridge!

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Back on our veranda we had a late lunch of beer and a packed of Twisties from our mainland stash. As we sit watching monkeys scurry up the coconut trees to attack the fruit, attacking each other in the process, the view past the coconut trees of the white beach and clear water relax us into island mode. We sit sipping our cold beers reminiscing of our previous visits to this beautiful place and the family that were with us, and of the characters we have met here. It does not take long for both Lyn & I to agree this was a very good decision to end our long travels with a stop here.
We both have a short afternoon nap. I wake before Lyn and walk to the jetty to try and get a sunset shot, but the cloud makes for a dull photo.
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This is our resort from the jetty.

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Dinner is usually just taken at our resort, this is what we previously did. It was just easier and they served the same as every other resort here. And we can charge it to our room here and just pay by credit card at the end, good because we did not bring enough cash for the next 10 days and there is no ATM on the island.

The seafood BBQ used to be very good here, but we are in the final 2 weeks of the season so I guess things are slowing down a lot. Ziad, owner and chief BBQ cook, showed us a few sad fish he had and we decided on the groper that he claimed to have caught yesterday. The other fish looked like they were caught last month, two months ago. The squid was frozen, but we noticed it was everywhere so that seemed the norm.

Anyway, we ended up with the freshly caught grouper (fried) sweet & sour, and some squid cooked on the grill. Served with boiled rice and grilled potato.

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The meal was fine, but the price ended up a bit high we thought @ 70myr = aud $20.84.

With full bellies we went to bed to the sound and light show of the going storm which hit just after midnight. And hit it did, I thought the window was going to implode on to us. Lyn slept blissfully as I closed the curtain hoping it would form some sort of barrier against the shattering window pane.

DAY 259 SUNDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2017

Seems last night’s storm did not smash through the window last night, as everything was still intact and dry this morning.

I slept late, very late. No idea why I need all this sleep but seems I do. So, after lazing around, doing our washing and having a tea and coffee in our room (we have a jug as well as fridge!) We headed out for breakfast at about 1.30pm! Walking up the path, stopping to watch the giant water monitors, it was 2pm by the time we were eating pineapple pancakes. But who cares? Pancake 3.50myr = aud $1.19 & ice coffee 2myr = aud 60c.

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Ah yes, the water monitors, there is a sort of creek that runs along the back of the resorts and in here lives water monitors. They have always been here and seem to live alongside the population, we have never seen one close to people, they are always lurking in the dirty water or sunning themselves in the sunshine close by. We have only seen a couple so far, this trip, but it might be the time of year. No idea. We have seen a few baby ones this time so maybe it’s the time of year.

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Finally, we went for a swim. Not sure why we didn’t make it into the water yesterday, usually the first thing we do. As usual the water was beautiful. It’s always warm here, but it was a little cooler than the water we swam in Hua Hin, Thailand a few weeks ago.

Crystal clear so that we could see the fish that started to mill around us. I think they are used to being fed by the big bodies that come and invade their space in the water. We saw a few shops selling bread marked as fish food. We did not try out our new snorkel masks today, that is a job for tomorrow. The rest of the day was for relaxing and watching the antics of the monkeys in the nearby trees, powerlines, our roof, trying to come inside our room. These little buggers know that a plastic bag contains food and they are very keen to get to any that they spy. They also manage to bite into a young coconut and pull out the flesh by sticking their little hand inside the nut. Very amusing and interesting to watch, but also have to watch out they don’t grab anything.

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5pm was our cocktail hour and Lyn poured us a rum & coke. Yep still have a bottle of rum that we have been carrying around for ever, so will be drunk here to keep to the theme of the Rum & Beaches trip.

6.30pm we were back in the water for a sunset swim, glorious! Another quick rum to while we dried off before heading to dinner. The resort here is almost empty and we were the only ones in the restaurant. No BBQ tonight, thank goodness, hopefully they have chucked those sad fish away.
I had Special Fried Rice with fried egg and even more fried chicken wing 12myr = aud $3.58 & Lyn had Ginger & Onion Chicken with rice 20myr = aud $5.95.

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We splurged out and bought internet for 10myr = aud$2.98 so we had contact with the outside world again. Not sure if this was for the day or for our stay, will see tomorrow if the internet connects again.

DAY 260 MONDAY 23RD OCTOBER 2017

I slept in again today. It seems at night while Lyn is being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves lapping the beach, I am being kept awake by her nasal serenading. So, she is awake at 7am and I am still catching up on sleep until around 10ish.

We had breakfast here at our resort this morning, not the best, poached eggs, which I must admit were ok, but served on one slice of soggy white bread. Did they forget to drain the egg before slapping it on the bread, I think so yes.

We sat around reading today, and watching the antics of the resident jungle monkeys, who are happy to come out of the jungle to raid the coconut trees. Now that there are not many people about they are quite bold and are surrounding our bungalow on the ground, trees and on our roof. We dare not leave anything outside when we go for a swim as the little buggers are into everything. Don’t chance leaving the door or a window open as they will be inside quick enough scavenging for food. Of course, they are only like this because people have in the past fed them, so they know the sound of a rustling plastic bag or food wrapper. Aggressive little buggers too, if you get between them and an empty Twisties packet, as I stupidly found out.

5.30pm – beer o’clock – we were sitting on our deck having a beer and a packet of Twisties from our stash. Me, wanting to have a little experiment, got more than I bargained for. I said to Lyn how long do you think it would take for a monkey to come investigate the empty Twisties packet? No answer so I got up and walked just 3 meters in front of our bungalow with the empty Twisties packet, picked up a small coconut (that had already been eaten) and put it inside the empty packet and dropped it on the ground. Well, before the packet even hit the deck a biggish monkey ran towards it and me, with teeth baring, hissing and screeching at me. Seems in the split second that I dropped the bag and stepped back towards the bungalow the monkey thought I was going for the bag that it obviously wanted. You never saw me move so fast backwards, problem being other monkeys heard the ruckus and saw the packet so they also came running in attack mode. The biggest monkey soon picked up the wrapper and found it was a hoax and soon dropped it and backed off. Certainly, an afternoon heart starter for me! And all Lyn could do was laugh, for the second time today at my monkey aggravating antics.

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Earlier in the day as we sat on the front deck having a cup of coffee a rather bold monkey climbed up onto the deck railing to have a look at what we were consuming. When I looked over at it the bloody thing beared its teeth in the manner that primates do when they are being aggressive. Stupid me, beared my teeth to it in return. Challenge taken, the hairy little bugger came running towards me along the railing. It wanted to have a go at me, as after all I had returned the challenge. I screamed and leapt across the deck, much to the amusement of Lyn so almost fell off her chair with laughter. You think I’d have learnt from that little encounter, but no had to push the boundaries with the Twisties packet experiment.

We swam out to the pontoon and back this afternoon, that was the most energetic we got. Although, after the first beer and Twisties incident we took our 2nd stubbie and walked out to the end of the jetty to watch the sunset. It was still rather cloudy, won’t be surprised if we get another storm tonight.

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Once the sun had gone and the jetty lights came on, just after 7, we headed back to find somewhere to have dinner. We noticed that a few restaurants have already packed up and closed for the end of season, so our eating places are narrowing down. We checked out the resort behind us as they were still doing BBQ, but the food there looked old and grey. Seems they are just trying to get rid of whatever is left. When we told the guy the fish did not look very healthy, he said, ‘can’t be fresh every day’. Mmmmm one day in the last month would have been nice. We walked away. Our resort BBQ was dismantled today so no chance of anything from the grill here for the rest of our stay.

We walked back to the Indian place as it was obviously still open as there were lots of lights on. Even here they are operating on a limited menu, again I guess using up whatever is left. We ordered chicken noodle in oyster sauce gravy. The meal was only 7 myr = aud $2.08 so we really could not complain, but what we got did not look like anything we ordered. To start with neither Lyn or I found any trace of chicken, but there was squid rings and beef? Vegies and a bit of noodles swimming in what looked like a gravy soup. It tasted ok and was cheap enough so beggars can’t be too choosy. Although we are worried that we are here another week and food seems to be scarce already.

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DAY 261 TUESDAY 24TH OCTOBER 2017

What a beautiful day today, blue sky, sunny!

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Ice coffee 2.50myr = aud 77c & pineapple pancake 4myr = aud $1.23 for breakfast today.

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We tried our new snorkel masks today and they are a great success. The full-face mask is very comfortable to wear, and vision is good. Great buy. We saw lots of fish today that someone should be catching to serve us for dinner.

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Also had a float around on our air beds we have carried from Malta.

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Lots of cats lazing around.

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Rum o’clock with crackers & cheese (this is a jar of blue cheese we bought in Spain, found it in the bottom of my bag, can’t take it into Australia so have to eat it here).

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Sunset looking a bit blue today.

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DAY 262 WEDNESDAY 25TH OCTOBER 2017

Another beautiful day. Seems we are the only guests at the Salang Sayang Resort. Not sure if our restaurant is still serving food or not, never seems to be anyone there. Only a handful of food places open now. We always go to the Salang Indah Restaurant, as does everyone still left here, which seem to be mainly staff and a few tourists doing diving.

Monkeys not so active today. Monitor lizards seem to have gone up creek. Saw a squirrel today.

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We just lazing around reading between swims.

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Sunset had good colour today.

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Dinner for me: chicken (actually was chicken in this dish) in oyster sauce gravy 7myr = aud $2.15 & Lyn: chicken in spicy peanut sauce 10myr = aud $3.07 both very soupy! Tasty enough.

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DAY 263 THURSDAY 26TH OCTOBER 2017

There was a big storm last night - lots of rain, thunder & lightening. We thought it had set in for the day, but although the sky remained cloudy there was no more rain during the day.

Brunch up at the Indah – I had an mushroom (singular) & cheese (questionable) omelette with 2 x toast 8myr = aud $2.46 & Lyn went for deep fried egg with beans on toast also 8myr = aud $2.46 . The food is nothing flash but its filling enough and doesn’t taste disgusting.

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We still seem to be the only people checked into our resort. The only other non-workers around seem to be tourists that get of round the island boat tours that stop off here at Salang Beach for lunch. Everyone ends up at Indah cause it’s the only eating place open!

Lazy day today, dinner back at same place.

I had same as other night chicken with noodle in oyster sauce/soup 7 myr = aud $2.15 & Lyn tried chicken with peanut sauce soup 7 myr = aud $2.15.

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DAY 264 FRIDAY 27TH OCTOBER 2017

Ho hum, another glorious day in paradise.

We were thinking when we first arrived here on Tioman, 9 days doing nothing - did we book too long. But now that we are over halfway we are thinking we did not book long enough.

Walked the usual up to Indah for some brunch, I ordered pineapple pancake and Lyn ordered baked beans on toast with fried egg. And I ordered an ice coffee that came about 5 minutes later. About 25 minutes later the girl came back to tell us sorry no toast, cannot do breakfast. No worries, we will both have pineapple pancake. Good, Ok.

5 minutes later girl comes back, sorry no pineapple. Shit, ok just plain pancake then. By now it was after midday, so we called the girl back and said sorry we will have hamburger instead. Ok no worries. We ordered chicken burger no sauce (as they go really overboard with sauce and you send up with a soup burger). 5 minutes later we were eating burgers!

Internet was back on today, seems they paid the bill, so we are again connected with the world and I had a chance to zap out a few blogs that I am still catching up on.

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We took our new full mask snorkels out again today as the sea was a flat at a pancake, a plain pancake, not a pineapple pancake. Anyway, the water was warm and when we put our faces in the water it was like looking into an aquarium. A big aquarium. Visibility was at the max today and the water was so clear you could see forever. The coral was beautiful and the colourful fish even more so. Sadly, I do not have an underwater camera otherwise I would be able to share it all with you. But this was the Tioman waters we fondly remember, and the snorkel masks are fantastic.

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They serviced our room today. Clean sheets and towels and it seems they think we need a roll of toot paper each.

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There seemed to be an influx of people yesterday & today. Several of our bungalows are now occupied. And this afternoon when in for a swim we noticed a big increase of heads bobbing around in the water. This weekend is the last of the season. Next week the whole island shuts down over the storm season, reopening in February next year. The weather now is still so nice, even with the few clouds that are in the sky, so I guess it’s the last chance for folks to come out to enjoy the island.

Dinner at Indah we had fried noodles 7myr = aud $2.15. After ordering we did spy some plates with what looked like charcoal chicken, hopefully it will be on the menu again tomorrow night. Ok only a few more days of noodles or rice!
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DAY 265 SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017

Another great day, is it possible.

Snorkelling again was magic, saw so many fish again today, and some beautiful big parrot fish. Camera needed next time. I did start travelling with an underwater camera, but it packed it in back in the first country I used it.

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DAY 266 SUNDAY 29TH OCTOBER 2017

Our last day today on Tioman Island and the weather is feeling sad for us too, as it is the worst day we have had here. Rained last night and the whole day today was dreary and overcast. You could feel the dampness in the air.

When we arrived here over a week ago, Lyn & I both had reservations that 9 days here doing nothing was too much, but now that our time is up we are both wishing we had booked for longer. But not possible anyway as the island goes into shut down mode in a few days. Most places already have shut down/boarded up and prepared for the 3 months of bad weather when no one comes here. The reopen in February, timed with Chinese New Year, we were advised.

This is our 4th visit to Tioman Island, and every time it has not disappointed. Our last visit was back in 2010, so 7 years ago and then I think it was 2009 & 2007 before that.

You must be careful when returning to a favourite place, because sometimes it can disappoint if the place has changed or the memories you have just aren’t the same as real life. But here I can definitely say that it is still exactly the same, because absolutely nothing has changed. Sure, there are a couple of new bungalows at a few of the other resorts, and restaurants can no longer sell beer due to not having liquor licences, but other than those little changes it is still the same as the first time we visited with our Brother Oscar maybe 10 years ago. Even one of the staff, our mate Jimmy still remembers us every time, we met him the first visit.

It’s very basic accommodation here, although we did step up to an air con, hot shower, fridge room this time, and I think this will be our comfort level from now on. And the fact that we are in the close down weeks the choice of food places was very limited, with our own resort restaurant closing the 2nd day we were here. But this close down week also meant it was not very busy and at times we were the only ones here at the resort. This is a major diving destination, so most of the guests at the other resorts were doing just that. But snorkelling is good enough for us and this is one of the best places in the world I have been to do this. The clear warm water is like an aquarium full of colourful fish and coral.

Yep, we will return again to Tioman Island and this time will make sure it’s not in 7 years’ time. In fact, I’m sure I can squeeze it into next year’s itinerary.

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DAY 267 MONDAY 30TH OCTOBER 2017

Didn’t sleep fitfully last night, I guess due to knowing that we had to be up at 6am for the 7am ferry. I woke up several times to the sound of wind, rain and waves crashing on the beach. These were not good sounds to hear when we would be catching a ferry in a couple of hours.

The alarm went off at 6am, it was still dark, and although it was no longer raining there still was a bit of wind to be heard. We got up, dressed and had a hot drink just before one of the guys turned up to collect our luggage to take to the end of jetty for us. I dropped the key in the drop box at 6.30 and we continued the short walk to the where the ferry was waiting at the end of the jetty.

The sea was rising and falling, which made the ferry rise and fall about 5 feet. We had to time the step from the jetty onto the boat with this up and down. Both Lyn and I had swallowed sea sickness pills when we woke up and this looked like we were going to need them. The ferry left Salang Beach early at 6.45am.

2 hours later, after a little nap and a smooth crossing we were pulling into Mersing dock. The trip across the sea had gone smoothly, much to our surprise.

It was only just 9am so we thought a little too early to try and check into the hotel. We sat in a nearby café and had a hot coffee killing just half an hour. Another 20 minutes to walk to the hotel and they had no problem with letting us have a room now.

We relaxed some, caught up on a bit of sleep and then went out for some breakfast/lunch, as we had not yet eaten. We ended up in KFC mainly, so Lyn could have mash potato and I could have some meat – chicken. With all the noodle and rice dishes we have been having on the island, we really needed a change.

We had a wander around the shops etc of Mersing, there is not a great deal here. We have just one night here then bus to Singapore tomorrow.
For dinner we went local having a roti with dahl and an ice coffee eat (think we are addicted to the ice coffees here in Malaysia now). Total cost 5.60myr = aud $1.72 for the both of us, must be the cheapest meal ever.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 07:45 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

2017 OCTOBER - MALASIA PENANG TO KUALA LUMPUR

BACK TO FAMILIAR TERRITORY, WE STAY FLASH IN KL

sunny

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL.
I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND

DAY 254 TUESDAY 17TH OCTOBER 2017

PENANG TO KUALA LUMPUR

Checked out of our nice hotel, the bellboy called us a taxi to take us to the ferry to take us back to Butterworth. The taxi was again 15myr = aud $4.63 , same as we paid to get to hotel. The ferry was free as you only need to pay on the way over to Penang, not on the return journey.

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Our booked train departs at 1.30pm and we left the hotel at 11.30 to give us enough time to get to the station. We walked straight onto a ferry which departed about 10 minutes later. The longest wait was for the shuttle bus to take us over to the train station and avoid the up and down stairs. This was starting to get a little unnerving as we waited almost an hour for the every 15minute shuttle. In the end 2 minivans showed up as another ferry had arrived while we were waiting, and I thought we might be bumped for the old & infirm. Ended up we arrived at the station in plenty of time and had to wait until we were allowed onto the platform.

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Looked like the train was fully booked again as advised by signs up in the ticket booth. Glad we pre-purchased them. Train tickets are somewhat more expensive here in Malaysia than in Thailand, but I guess the trains are somewhat better also. Our ticket Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur was 79 myr = aud $24.38 each. The journey took about 4 hours with multiple stops for the first 2 hours then express the rest of the way, we reached speeds up to 145km / hour, according to the screen. And we were given a snack.

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DAY 255 WEDNESDAY 18TH OCTOBER 2017

Greeted again with smiles and good morning as we passed the reception area on the way to the breakfast room.

Breakfast at the hotel was a pretty good spread but as like in all Asian hotels the food is all served cold. You could get an egg freshly deep fried or an omelette cooked, but all the other food sitting in tin boxes with a candle under it were luke warm at best. I took some of the fried potatoes to the egg cooking lady and requested she give it a bit of a heat up in her frying pan. At first she looked a little bewildered, started to take it back to the kitchen when I demonstrated just put in it fry pan for a few minutes. It was still only just warm but better than before. At least there was some nice bread – non-sweet bread – so breakfast was good enough.

Straight after breakfast we headed back to Petaling Street where the few day market stalls were just setting up. But we were not looking for fake bargains, we were looking for someone very specific. The Duck Lady! For years we have been coming here and the duck lady has been here selling cooked ducks to all and sundry, including us. Many a time we have purchased ½ a duck to take on board an Air Asia flight as our meal. Never being seated next to each other, the duck would be passed down the aisle to Lyn or me. Last time I flew with Robyn and we did in fact sit together and enjoy the duck, do you remember Robyn? So, today again we purchased ½ a duck for 28myr = aud$8.61 , taking it back to our room fridge to be enjoyed later for lunch.

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Back outside we walked to the Central Market to have a look to see if anything had changed there, it hadn’t, and to drop off our shirts to be embroidered with this year’s trip slogan. 70myr = aud$21.53.

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To kill some time we went for a ride in the free loop bus that leaves from Chinatown, but this took less than an hour because the traffic was quite free flowing.

Back to the room for duck lunch!

We ventured back out for dinner only to find that the satay stand was still unmanned. I asked the guy at the fruit stall next to the empty stall and he said gone, no more. Not sure if he meant for good or that she was gone on holidays or what. But sadly, this is the first trip to KL without a visit to the satay stand. Another tradition dead!

We returned to the food hall where we ordered lemon chicken & stir fried mixed vegies both 15myr = aud $4.61 each. The both came with plain rice and we splurged out on another 14.90 myr = aud$4.58 beer.

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DAY 256 THURSDAY 19th OCTOBER 2017

After good mornings and smiley greetings, we went to breakfast. It’s the same fare every day, but the bread is still nice so all good. Coffee is shocking, but you can’t win them all.

We are off on an adventure today, an adventure on the public transport. It’s so cheap to use the public buses here and how lost can we get really? Anyway, today we were on a mission and I had consulted google maps to find exactly where we were going and how we could get there.
Bus #100 that could be caught a block behind the central market would take us to our first destination. We found the bus stop no worries and as we were waiting the bus guys asked where we wanted to go. 8truim Shopping Centre I advised, and one guys said – oh Decathlon! Yes, exactly, that’s where we wanted to go. OK get on this bus 103, it will take you there and its leaving now. Perfect, we took our seats and new it was about an hour or so ride due to distance and the amount of stops the public buses do. The bus did in fact depart minutes later and when the bus conductor reached us he advised ticket was 3myr = aud 92c each.

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We drove out of the central town area and into the suburbs. Numerous high rises everywhere, there must be a hell of a lot of people living here in KL. The bus turned onto a highway and I though, gee how far out of town is this store? Next thing the bus is pulling over on the highway and the driver was motioning for us to get out – we were stopped on a 3-lane highway. There was no bus stop, there was no pedestrian walkway. But we were stopped outside the Decathlon store and they were happy for us to get off here, so we did and crossed a lane of merging road, climbed over the barrier and walked to the store. So funny, only in Asia would they just drop you off in the middle of a busy highway. But we made it there ok and spent the next 1 ½ hours browsing my favourite sports store.

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Of course, we made some purchases, including full face snorkel sets 99myr = aud$30.39 which we had seen in the same store in Europe and kicked ourselves for not purchasing back then. But we did now as these will be handy for our upcoming time at Tioman Island.

Since we were over this side of town, we thought we may as well drop into the Ikea store that is out this way. We asked the worker standing outside the Decathlon store where the nearest bus stop was, and he pointed to the highway where we were dropped off. It was all well and good being dropped off the bus on the highway but to try and flag one down when we had no idea even which one we wanted, it was easier & safer to get a taxi the short distance.

So, we headed out to a back main road, not going to try and flag a taxi on the highway either, and we saw several taxis parked on the road up ahead. We also saw a Maccas and decided to go in there for a cold drink and toilet break first. Of course, when we headed back outside all the taxis were gone so we just stood roadside until we saw one passing and flagged him down.

It was only about 20 minutes to the Ikea store, via the highway and through a toll, and the fare was just 14.90myr + 1.10myr (for the road toll) = 16myr = aud$4.91 so not too much damage. Considering the bus was so cheap it all sort of evens itself out.

Lunch at Ikea around the world differs only slightly with each countries speciality, but you can always rely on them all having the Swedish Ikea meatballs, which were a popular choice here as in every Ikea restaurant. Also, a hot favourite here was chicken wings, so we had both. And they had mash potato, of which I got an extra scoop for both of us.

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Again, we made a few purchases, as you do. The line-up for the checkouts was quite long, obviously the Malaysians love Ikea too.

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We caught the free shuttle bus that runs from Ikea to the nearest MRT station, very kind of them. Actually, we have noticed a few countries where we have visited Ikea stores they have free shuttle buses from a nearby transport or shopping centre. Anything to make it easier for the customer to access their shops, very smart I think.

The MRT ticket was just 3.70myr = aud$1.14, similar to the bus fare, but was much quicker as did not have to negotiate any traffic.
Back at our hotel we surveyed our purchases of the day, wondering how on earth we are going to incorporate these extra items into our already overloaded luggage. Minutes later I was on the internet purchasing a few extra kilos of luggage for our last flight home.

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Dinner was left over duck, Ikea chicken wings which we could not eat at lunch and we went out and bought some garlic nan bread and dahl. Picnic fit for queens in our posh room, ah washed down with a couple of Tiger Radler beers from 711!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:21 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

2017 OCTOBER - MALAYSIA, PENANG

A FEW DAYS IN LUXURY IN PENANG

sunny

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL.
I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND

DAY 251 SATURDAY 14TH OCTOBER 2017

PEDANG BASAR, THAILAND TO BUTTERWORTH, MALAYSIA TO PENANG

Our sleeper train arrived at the border station about an hour late, but that did not matter as it was still morning and we had all day to get to our destination of Penang. The Thai train does not cross the border, we needed to get out at the Pedang Basar train station, go through Thai exit immigration, then go through Malaysian entry immigration, then continue our journey south to Butterworth from a train at the same station. This was an easy task involving about an hour of lining up waiting for our stamp out of Thailand. Timing was on our side because as soon as we were stamped into Malaysia we could board the train to Butterworth that left minutes later.

The ride to Butterworth was 11.40 myr = aud $3.52 each , and took about 2 hours in a comfortable, clean, air con train that was completely devoid of any kind of food or drink vendors.

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Before leaving the Butterworth station, I purchased our train tickets to Kuala Lumpur for a few days’ time as there were notices that today’s tickets to KL were already sold out. Purchasing in advance assures we travel the day we plan.

The train station at Butterworth was very close to the ferry that would carry us over to Penang, the only problem was that you must cross the train tracks, which meant lots of steps up and over the tracks, then down the other side. This task looked to be impossible for us with our luggage and we were relieved to be told by a nice gentleman in uniform that there was a free shuttle from just outside the train station to the ferry station. This free shuttle was supposed to be for the old and infirm, but another uniformed man who was at the shuttle stop seemed happy enough for us to line up for it with all our luggage.

The shuttle took us to the walk on ticket booth, where we purchased tickets for 1.20myr = aud 37c each and waited for the ferry to arrive. This was much better than even attempting to carry our luggage up and down steps. We made a mental note to get the free shuttle on the way back too. The ferry crossing took about 20 minutes.

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I had read about taxi sharks in Penang refusing to use their meters, so you have to bargain a price before you get in the taxi. Our hotel was only about 5km away so when the driver advised it was 20 myr I said what about 15 myr = aud $4.63 and he relented, giving me a look like we were ripping him off, which of course we were not!

While checking into the hotel I asked the reception what the price of the taxi should be, and he said no more than 15 myr, so I felt ok with the price we paid.

Hotel Royal Penang, our home for the next 3 nights. Malaysia is a little more expensive than Thailand and we have decided to stay somewhere a little bit nice. 140myr = aud $43.20 per night, for a room on the 15th floor with an amazing view.

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Next door to the hotel was a Giant supermarket that sold real bread – ie baguette, not sweet Asian bread. So for dinner we bought some bread & butter and a roast chicken, which we ate in our lovely room.

DAY 252 SUNDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2017

PENANG

The sky is still cloudy and grey but it’s hot outside. We went for a walk along the waterfront, checked out a few flash hotels where we could never afford to stay. And wandered through old Georgetown.

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Penang is famous for it CKT noodle dish which was a little disappointing when we had it last time we were here. This time we tried it again from a street vendor and it was ok (I think my Eric’s Noodle shop at home does a better job), but here it was only 5myr = aud $1.54 , and as we sat in the street we think it was the same street vendor we ate from last time.

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At a nearby 711 we also managed to find some Tiger Radler beer which was on special @ 7.10myr = aud $2.19 for 2 cans. We had a can with our street dinner and took one home for tomorrow.

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We walked around a little, then found our way back to the hotel.

DAY 253 MONDAY 16TH OCTOBER 2017

PENANG

Walked back into Georgetown to hire a motor bike as at 35myr = aud $10.80 , it was cheaper than getting taxi’s to the 2 places we wanted to visit today.

First up was a drive out to Penang Hill to ride the funicular up to the top for a bird’s eye view of Penang. Yes, us and 100’s of other tourists. It seems Penang only has a limited number of sights or things to do and this was the number one thing on everyone’s list. I stood in line to buy tickets 15myr = aud $4.63 each, one way, for about 35 minutes, and if I thought that was bad the line up to actually get on the funicular was about 1 ½ hours, in the heat!

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Finally it was our turn and the trip up took all of 5 minutes? But yes the view was good.

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There were a couple of very expensive restaurants up the top, but we also found a food court where most of the local people were eating. Here Lyn & I just shared a small meal as we had plans later that we didn’t want to spoil our appetites for. Chicken rice 6myr = aud $1.85
There was a temple, mosque and a few other gardens and things to see at the top, but mainly it was the view. Ah and there was a stage set up where for 15myr = aud $4.63 you could get your photo taken holding a snake. As I never like to let the opportunity of holding a snake go by, I managed to coax Lyn in joining me. As you can see by the photos she was not very impressed.

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We had bought just a one-way ticket on the funicular as we had intensions of walking down the path, but as it turns out we ran out of time as we had to be at our next destination before 5.30. So, we rode the rail back down, jumped back on the bike to our next destination.

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Our second destination for today was Suffolk House for afternoon high tea! Thought we would have a posh afternoon and out of all the places I found online, Suffolk House, which was once an English Governors house claimed to be the best place in Penang for high tea.

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I must say I was a little disappointed when we were served the tea in daggy old white café cups. Where was the English bone china to match the surroundings? The room was nice, although the pipped music turned a little rock n roll every couple of songs. The food was ok, I say ok as this is Asia, if I was served these rock biscuits in England or Europe as scones I would ask for a refund. But this is Asia, so I was a bit more lenient. The tea was nice, and our 2 cup pot was refilled numerous times, but the same bag was used. The food was enough as we took the tiny cakes away to be eaten later. Price we paid for 2 of us 95.40myr = aud $29.44 and I would score it a 4/10.
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We had a bit of a ride around before taking the bike back. We had used 2myr = aud 62c in fuel, so it was a bargain.

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Dinner was the remainder of chicken and bread & butter in our room with the fabulous view.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:30 Archived in Malaysia Tagged hill penang Comments (0)

2015 MAY MALAYSIA - THE ADVENTURE FOR 2015 BEGINS!

flight Coolangatta, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, then free days in KL

Tuesday 5th May 2015 (day one)

Departure day has finally come around. The last week has been somewhat busy. Turning half a century last week and throwing a party before a big trip was a little challenging, but it all seemed to go smoothly. Again thanks to all who helped, contributed and came along to help me celebrate.

With most of our luggage already sent on to Thailand with Michael (Lyn’s son) there did not seem to be the normal last minute packing and repacking panic. All of our bike & camping gear and majority of our clothing has already started the journey towards Europe.

This morning we were up at some still dark hour as our flight was scheduled to depart Coolangatta / Gold Coast airport at 8.40am. This meant we had to be at the airport approximately 2 hours before at 6.40am, which meant we had to depart my home at 5.40am, which meant me getting up around 5am and Lyn (who had to drive from hers to mine) at 4am.

Not many friends or family members were putting up their hands to offer a lift to the airport at this ridiculous hour I can assure you. So it was our good fortune that - we were able to sucker – we could ask my good friend Mandy visiting from New Zealand to drop us down the Gold Coast and then drive herself to the airport later that day for her return flight. Rudely, when our flight had been cancelled a few weeks ago I had changed it to the previous day without a thought for my visiting friend who was flying out the same day but hours later.
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The past week has been great having Mandy over. Think I finally found someone who is on par with me in the talking and drinking coffee department. I reckon we must have clocked up close to 100 cups over the last week!

Check in at the airport was easy as we only had carry-on bags and after a last coffee together we left Mandy with car, gps navman and wishes of good luck finding her way back up to Brisbane airport. I’m sure she will be fine and she has like 10 hours to get lost and found. Thanks Mandy!

On the drive down, sitting in the airport and even when boarding the plane it still had not hit me that we were off on another long holiday. I think it’s the fact that in the last 6 months I have been on several flights having travelled to Melbourne, New Zealand, Darwin, Broome & Adelaide. How privileged am I that flying has become so blasé.

I’m sure it will hit me once the plane doors open and the old familiar aroma of Asia wafts into the cabin. Then I will let out a sign of relief that the adventure I have spent 100’s of internet hours researching and making numerous bookings for is now underway!

Flight as usual was an uneventful 8 hours. I managed to catch a nap.
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We caught the bus (not pictured) from the airport to China Town for a bargain price of 10 ringget each ($3.52), took about just over an hour as the traffic (pictured) was busy as usual.
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Short walk to Petaling Street to our reserved Hotel Chinatown (2). We have never stayed here before, location is perfect for us and as expected the rooms look nothing like they did on the hotel web site. But hey, at 108 ringget ($38.35) per night for air con, flat screen TV, fast internet and hopefully hot shower - for us its a very comfortable start to our holiday.
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After settling into our room, we headed out to find our usual dinner haunt. Chicken satays and a Tiger beer is the meal we usually start every trip with. The price of the satays had risen to 1myr = 35c each, but they were still as good as ever, but of course it’s the peanut sauce accompaniment that really makes this place our favourite. The old lady in the stall next door pushing drinks onto satay diners has also been there as long as we have been coming to KL. Tax on alcohol in Malaysia is high so us having a beer at 17myr = $5.95 is really a treat. But this repeated habit cannot be left off any of our itineraries that include a stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
That was about it for us for today, early to bed after watching a bit of telly (Animal Planet being the only channel in English that worked). Thankfully the shower was hot and pressure pretty good, so we showered and crashed.
It has been a big first day!

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Wednesday 6th May 2015 (day two)

We woke relatively early today. Too early for Asia as the shops here tend not to come awake until 10ish. There are the early morning wet markets which start very early, and people are out and about, but shops and restaurants do not start to open until much later. This suits us fine, as it gives us an excuse not to have to be up and around early in the morning. Hey we are on holidays.

Finally just before 10 we left the room in search of breakfast. We went via Central Market as we had a couple of T-shirts to drop off to the embroidery man, but the centre was not yet open so we found an Indian restaurant to have some food. No western style breakfast here, unless you stay in a flash hotel that offers buffet breakfast, so not much chance of that for us. It always seems to amuse the locals when we pull up a table at these local food outlets. I guess not many tourists eat at these places, but we are up for just about anything food wise. This place looked clean enough and it was displaying newspaper articles which meant it was semi famous for something on the menu. We were seated and served a pulled milky white tea (which to me tastes nothing like tea in any form). It’s very, very sweet, but is hot and just the treat to wash down the oily roti and dahl we were served to eat. All pretty good really and at a bargain price of 8.80myr = $3.08 for the both of us, our hunger was satisfied.

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So what to do when we have visited KL so many times. All the tourist traps & attractions had been visited on one of our many previous visits to this familiar city. We decided to challenge ourselves by going on a public transport excursion to try and find the IKEA store which is located out in the suburbs. You may think this is a lame thing to do, but like I said we have seen every other attraction and being avid IKEA visitors at home, thought this would be a novel public transport challenge. And it was, but a fairly easy one really. We caught the red transit rail line (2.10myr = 74c each) to the very last station Kenlana Jaya, where there was supposed to be a free shuttle bus to take us to the shopping mall where IKEA was located. We sat at the bus station waiting and waiting, finally giving up and catching a bus (2myr = 70c). Good decision as a local lady on the bus told us we just missed the free shuttle as it did drove past the bus stop where is was supposed to pick us up at.

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Of course all IKEA stores are identical everywhere in the world, as is the cafeteria menu. We enjoyed a mushroom soup and shared a plate of the famous IKEA meatballs (which taste the same worldwide) with about 300 other Swedish cuisine eating locals. Prices average out about the same as the prices in Australia, which is pretty high by Malaysian standards, so we were quite surprised that the café was packed to capacity.

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After lunch we had a quick wander around the IKEA shop to confirm they are all identical in products available also. To kill more time before our shuttle bus to take us back to the train station we did a bit of window shopping in the other stores in the mall. Then as we still had time for a coffee, we purchased an overpriced drink in Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop which may just be the worse tasting swill I have ever had served to me, and I think they had a real cheek even calling it anything remotely like coffee!

Boarding the free shuttle just before it departed, we were back at the train station in no time. Usually only a 2 minute wait for the next train we arrived back in Chinatown 20 minutes later, proud of our successful experience on the public transport system.

After collecting our t-shirts from Central Market, we decided to return to our room and celebrate our successful day by drinking our bottle of duty free Amarula! Boy, those litre bottles sure don’t last very long do they?

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Since we’d had a huge lunch and after polishing off the bottle of Amarula, we thought just a small dinner was in order. Earlier at the 7/11 we discovered a vending machine that dispensed mashed potatoes and gravy, which we decided would be a perfect accompaniment to with our chicken satay sticks. Add a bottle of Tiger beer and there we had another well rounded meal.

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The air con in our room is playing up a bit, a lot actually so we are in for a hot humid night. We were offered another room which was half the size and with only a double bed, so we have decided to sweat it out in our original room. After the exciting day we had and with the aid of the bottle of Amarula we drank, I don’t think that sleeping is going to be a problem.

Thursday 7th May 2015 (day three)

First task for today was to find an ATM as we were out of cash. Usually an easy thing to find but after calling into the nearest bank which was just metres away from our hotel I was advised that we needed a 6 digit pin number, not just a 4 digit number as used at home. I have encountered this before and in the past have just added 00 to the beginning and all was fine. Not so this time. The teller in the bank told me the system had changed and we needed a 6 digit pin unless we found an international bank which there of course were none in the China Town area.

We still had about 12 ringgets left which was enough for breakfast so we went to do that and would find a bank later. As usual information was incorrect and the next Malaysian bank we came across I tried my card with a 4 digit pin and it gladly spat out my money to me. I then had to race back to Petaling Street to where our duck lady was as usual selling ducks from a makeshift stall on the foot path. I paid her 25 myr = $8.75 for half a cooked duck and added 2 myr = 70c for a duck foot wrapped in duck liver and kidney as an old man passing had suggested we should try this little treat. Back at our hotel the duck was put in the communal refrigerator for later in the day.

By this time we had missed the breakfast service and as we had returned to the same Indian restaurant as yesterday the waiter and a couple of patrons suggested we have the mee chicken for brunch. Mee = noodles = 2 minute noodles. I find it amusing in Asia where a lot of noodles are eaten everybody uses and all restaurants serve up instant noodles. I don’t think we have ever been anywhere that the noodles have been made fresh. The meal was good enough, noodles with a splash of Maggie and chicken wok fried to within an inch of its life but still moist inside. Highlight for me was again the pulled tea, don’t know why we have never had this before on previous visits, but I’m loving it!

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We covered lots of miles today, seated in the KL Go free buses. There are 4 bus loops that go to various areas around the city. We managed to cover just about every route only getting off to change lines or at the end of a route where we were forced to change buses. Interesting to note these so called free tourist loop bus routes are used by a lot more locals than tourists just to commute to and from work. The buses are pretty good, with most having free WIFI and if you were a first time visitor to KL you certainly could use these buses to get to just about every site and attraction in the city, as well as every major shopping mall, which seems to be a major attraction for most tourists to KL. We are not so much into shopping in this giant shopping centres mainly as they are expensive western brand name shops, but mostly we cannot buy anything as we would have to carry it with us for the rest of our trip and later travelling on a bike extra purchases is the last thing we want.

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It was late afternoon by the time we boarded the last purple line bus which would take us back to Chinatown. We had seen lots of the city today, even a few places we had never been to before. And we were sheltered from the short down pour of rain during the day sitting comfortably in a bus.
Finished the day with a coffee at McCafe in Chinatown, which was half the price of Gloria Jeans coffee yesterday and this one actually did resemble the taste of coffee.

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For dinner we collected the duck from the hotel fridge, grabbed a couple of instant mash potato & gravy from 7/11 and used their tables and chairs to enjoy our feast. The duck was magnificent as usual, we tried the liver and kidney which was inoffensive, but Lyn was a little unsure of how much of the duck foot is actually eaten. Are you supposed to eat the webbing? A mystery we may never know.

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Unfortunately the air con in our room was still not doing much to change the temp so that hotel is going to cop a beating from me on Trip Advisor and we will know better next time. I’m happy to live without air con, but if we have paid for it as we did with this usual upgrade of room, then I bloody well expect it to work! The hotel owner who seemed to live in the room next door to us didn’t really give a shit, he already had our money.

Relatively early night as we have to be up very early for our flight to Thailand tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged chinatown kuala air duck asia lumpur ikea coolangatta satay Comments (3)

2013 SEPT MALAYSIA - STOPOVER IN ASIA part 3

Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur Free day KL

sunny 26 °C

Thursday 5th Sept 13 (day 5)

Today is a travel day. We are flying from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. One of the reasons I chose to come to Ayutthaya was to get out of the craziness of Bangkok and it is just as close to the Don Mueang airport as coming from Bangkok. So you can imagine my horror to find that a minivan to the airport from here was quoted at 600 baht ($20.80) per person. This was ridiculous considering a minivan to Khao San Road in Bangkok was only 200 baht ($6.95) per person which is double the distance. Do these people want to really stick it to you for the last trip you have to the airport in their country??

Luckily on the train trip up we passed through a station that was named Don Mueang so it had to be near the airport. And the fact that I had seen a sign on the station platform that pointed to a pedestrian overpass that read to airport terminal. So we decided to take the train instead, we figured if we left early enough we could account for any train delays and still get to the airport on time. For once we had a flight that was at a normal time in the middle of the day scheduled to depart at 1.05pm.

Returning the motorbikes and recovering my passport, we had breakfast and checked out of our hotel. It was a really nice place and the ladies all came out to say goodbye with big smiles and as we left we were handed another bottle of cold water for our journey. Would definitely recommend this place Baan Are Gong Homestay at Ayutthaya in case any of you readers ever make it there.

We were in time at the train station, a mere 3 minutes walk from our hotel, to catch the 9.01am train. I purchased tickets 11 baht (38c) each - far cry from 600 baht each! We were on time but of course the train was not, it was delayed by 15 minutes, but that was ok cause we had allowed enough leeway for train delays.

The train did arrive on time, the new delayed time, and soon we were on our way to the airport. The train was even more basic than the one we came up in. Hard seats this time and again the only air con was the breeze that blew threw the windows. It was an enjoyable journey and a nice way to exit Thailand. Although noisy, grotty and windy it was 100% on the overpriced minivan trip that would have cost 600 times the price.

Turned out we arrived at the airport with lots of time to spare, we were even too early to check in. Patrick caught the same train as us as he was returning to Bangkok and decided to get off at the airport to see us off. We sat around chatting until it was time to check in then still had time to spare. Patrick bid us goodbye when it was time for us to go through immigration and our departure gate. This is when I noticed that our flight had been delayed by 1 hour 10 minutes. He left and we continued to the gate and had no choice but to wait around until our flight was called to board.

Lyn & I killed some time by having an overprice fast food lunch, but you expect crap food at crazy prices when you are a captive audience in an airport.

We boarded, again on time at the new delayed time, and the 2 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur was uneventful. I dozed a little so it went fairly quickly. We were even later landing in KL due to having to circle several time because of heavy air traffic. After landing and disembarking it was the usual 3 kilometre walk from the Air Asia plane steps to the terminal gates. Luggage collected, outside a bus was waiting to take us to KL Sentral. Our Indian bus driver had obviously heard that our flight was delayed as he did his very best to go as fast as possible to make up for lost time. Unfortunately for us, we had a front seat and I had a perfect view of the bus speedo which did not keep in time with the signs posted along the highway. And it seems that if you are a bus and a lot bigger than most vehicles on the highway it's ok to just cross 5 lanes of traffic at the last minute to avoid missing a highway exit turn off. Mental note to look for this bus driver if we are ever running late to get to the airport.

Just one stop on the KL rapid and we were in China town and again in familiar territory. We checked into our hotel and then went out to have satay sticks at our favourite street food stall. No visit to KL is complete without a meal at the satay stall, we have been coming for years, the best bit is the peanut sauce.

A quick walk around the markets, very quiet here tonight. Not many tourists around at all.
The weather seems to be a lot cooler here than Bangkok - no humidity at all.

Back to hotel for a shower and watch a bit of telly before bed.

Friday 6th Sept 13 (day 6)

Because we had an interior windowless room, it was pitch black when we woke and we had no idea what time it was. We had to turn on a light and dodge our laundry which was strung up across the room to see what time it was. Our hotel rooms always take on the appearance of a Chinese laundry, as we wash out the days clothes every night before bed hoping they will dry overnight and serve another day. They usually do as we long since adapted our travel clothes to quick dry fabrics.

Turned out it wasn't that late at all and as today is a free day it would not have mattered anyway. Breakfast on the balcony of our hotel, overlooking the mornings activities of Pedaling Street, turned out to be better than expected. The Chinatown daytime stall holders were just setting up for the days trade and our favourite duck lady was already doing a roaring trade - as per usual.
We have visited Kuala Lumpur many times now and it was a bit of a challenge to find something to do for the day as we have seen the sights and really a visit to a flash shopping mall is not for us. While surfing the net a few months back I stumbled on a site that mentioned KL is now running 2 free bus services, that allow anyone to catch them and to get on and off at your leisure. This sounded like something that would fill our time and a good chance to people watch while moving around the city. Lucky for us one of the loops passed through Chinatown, so after we finished breakfast and had purchased half a duck for later, we set off to the bus stop.

GO-KL buses turned out to be quite nice. Obviously a lot newer than the local buses, air conditioned and with free wifi! And no fares to boot! We took a seat, checked in on the Internet and were off into the always busy traffic. The two bus routes are only short - just over 6 & 7 km's respectively, but due to traffic we sat for almost an hour before we arrived at the loops crossover bus stop and disembarked the purple line to get onto the green line. We were lucky to get seats on both buses as these free rides were very popular. Funny though we seemed to be the only 'tourists' aboard. Perhaps the service is not very well advertised to tourists, but is still getting wide use from locals who were enjoying the free ride to get them to their chosen destination.
After travelling along about half of the green line - about an hour - we got out at the bus stop at the Petronas Twin Towers. Very flash shopping mall here that we were bored with, within 3 minutes of seeing the shop names. All high end stuff, definitely nothing within our back packer budget. So we found a westernised coffee shop and sat with an over priced coffee (overpriced for Malaysia, but same price as home) and watched other tourist, locals and shop workers go about their sight seeing or working movements. And anyway the coffee was on someone else who had given Lyn some left over ringgits. Thanks to that person, you know who you are, but probably not reading this anyway!
After enjoying our coffee and a nice seat watching passing foot traffic, we returned to the mall and found a supermarket that sold real bread, an oddity in Asia and had a picnic lunch outside in the park at the back of the towers.

The two bus loops back to Chinatown took even longer than earlier due to peak hour traffic. We managed to get seats on both buses again so were not too worried about the time it took. Back at the hotel we enjoyed a last beer on the balcony, now watching the new stall holders setting up. In Chinatown there are two shifts for stalls, a daytime shift and a nighttime shift.

We had kept our room for the extra day, cheap enough to do so and gave us somewhere safe to leave our luggage. Also enabling us to have a shower after our day out and before our late night flight. So we showered, packed and ate our duck for dinner before heading off to the airport.
Perfect timing on the metro delivered us to the airport shuttle bus at KL Sentral just 2 minutes before its departure. A little over an hour later - again very heavy traffic - we were entering the airport terminal to be confronted by a very very very long check in line. Seemed to be a lot of Malaysian airways flights leaving between 10 and midnight and we all had to queue up for the same check in counters. Snaking our way in line it was over an hour before it was our turn to check in the luggage, which meant we had to head straight away to immigration and our departure gate to make the flight.

There is nothing exciting to tell you about a 13 hour flight! We watched a few movies, tried our best to get some sleep and managed to survive the journey without too much discomfort.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:36 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala lumpur Comments (0)

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