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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)

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