Well hello everyone, and welcome back to my blog!
You may wonder why I am writing so soon after leaving, but the places I am going are going to be very remote, and I probably won't have internet until Sunday 4th May now, so thought I'd give you a little information today....
So I set off on Wednesday morning bright and early, for a mammoth journey to Kota Kinabalu, which would total three days and three flights. My fear of flying hasn't improved at all, but at least I was well enough this time to appreciate how good Etihad are. I watched great TV, ate great food (with metal knives and forks, because you don't get murderers on Etihad, it's too posh) and slept soundly. The planes are so smooth you can't feel it when you leave the runway, but if you want to watch a video from the cockpit as you take off then you can!
It was a bit weird being back in Abu Dhabi again, and I was really keen to just get there - but I had a six hour wait. Luckily, I got speaking to 2 Pakistani guys from Kashmir. It was really interesting learning about their countries. One even gave me his email address if I ever want to go and stay with him - I won't be going but I can always pass it on to you Mark if you want somewhere free to stay! The other guy was telling me about the three terrorist bomb blasts he has seen, pretty amazing considering he is only 18. His friend was killed in one of them - it's impossible to imagine.
While I was waiting at the gate for my flight to Kuala Lumpur, a random middle aged Syrian businessman started talking to me, and offered me a free ride to my hotel in his airport transfer. I had been planning to get public transport but it was silly to turn down a free ride, the only annoying thing being that I then had to talk to him. He was very arrogant and kept going on about how much his car cost, and how rich he was, and when he met Prince Charles, blah blah blah. He emptied about a bottle of aftershave onto himself in the taxi, the man does not know the meaning of subtlety, I nearly choked! When he dropped me off he gave me his card and asked me to phone him, which I definitely will never do. I gave him a Nytol on the plane though, which I think is a fair exchange for the free ride.
I really liked KL. Compared with India it is so clean and efficient. I was in the Golden Triangle which is the shopping area. There are just streets and streets of massive shopping malls, so big that I got lost in several of them - it's incredible. On Thursday afternoon I went and took a few pictures of the city, and went up the KL tv tower for the view. I got some great pictures of the city from the top.
I'm glad that I did a lot on Thursday afternoon - I was supposed to get up at 8am on Friday to do more sightseeing but I was so jetlagged that I didn;t get up until 11! Pretty lame but it was literally impossible to get out of bed!
I took public transport back to the airport, which was very efficient and easy. Unfortunately I felt very ill on the journey and was nearly sick on the floor - this will be a lesson to me not to take an anti-malarial on an empty stomach! At least it turned out not to be food poisoning though!
I smugly made it to the check in desk on time, queued up and was told that I was at the wrong terminal - the terminal I needed was a forty minute bus ride away and I would definitely miss my flight. In ran downstairs in a panic, and found a taxi driver who drove at about 140kph to get me there on time, in return for what could reasonably be considered a Malaysian's life savings - but I wasn't in a position to argue. He had a good laugh at my stupidity for the whole journey.
My flight to Kota Kinabalu wasn't too bad, but the landing was pretty horrendous. There was torrential rain - so heavy that the sky was almost pitch black, and strong winds. The plane smashed into the runway so hard I thought the landing gear would break, but none of the Malaysians around me thought there was a problem, and they guy on the other side of the aisle from me had a good laugh at my expense. My transfer driver to the hotel told me that it rains that hard every afternoon, although I have subsequently been pleased to discover that this is not true.
On Saturday I met my new room mate, who is called Jude and works in banking. We went for a bit of a walk round the shopping malls and bought some last minute things for our mountain climb. There are plenty of markets with cheap cool stuff on sale, but I am relieved there is no space in my bag to store it, as I can't really afford to keep shopping like I did in India!
In the evening we met our group, who all seem lovely, and we had a really nice meal. I think many aspects of travelling in Malaysia are going to be much safer than India - it is fine to eat salad and have ice in drinks for example. Our guide told us all about the trip - my trip is actually 2 trips stuck together in India, so this part of is lasts until Wednesday 7th before I fly to the second part. The trip sounds amazing, although I am getting increasingly scared about Mount Kinabalu. Our guide has climbed it 10 times, and he says that the fist time he did it he swore he'd never do it again. Think of me on Tuesday and Wednesday please. It will take us 16 hours in total to ascend and descend this mountain, but each year there is a race up and down it, and the record for the shortest round trip is 2 hours and 36 minutes!
After dinner we went to a pub to watch the Chelsea v Manchester United match. It was so strange to be watching English football in a sweaty bar on the other side of the world. The Malaysians love English Premier League football because there is so much corruption in their own league. More specifically, they love Manchester United, and we were surrounded by Asians in United shirts. Something which entertained me greatly when I flew with Air Asia was that they brand themselves "The official budget airline of Manchester United". I can't imagine that Manchester United players would have any cause to use them or in fact would ever be seen dead doing so, but there are posters of United players plastered all over the airport. And instead of an Air Asia badge on the tail fin, the planes all display the Manchester United badge!
Today I managed to drag myself out of bed at 9.30am so the jetlag is improving. I won't have internet until the 4th of May now but I do have a Malaysian phone number, and signal should be reasonable on most days (although ironically probably not on my birthday). My number is +60128327634. Photos will follow when I have some.
It was lovely to see you all when I came home, and hope to hear from you soon! xx