OK, attempt number two at writing this, seeing as this computer from the dark ages just crashed and deleted my whole blog post just after I'd finished!
So, last week we headed across Borneo to Kota Kinabalu, a lively city by the South China Sea. We had a bit of fun and games trying to find a hostel - no one at the bus station seemed to agree as to which bus we should get, and then said bus didn't turn up. The buses here are worse than in Bristol which is really saying something! We headed out to check out the night market, which is suppsed to be one of the best ones in Southeast Asia. You may have gathered by now that I have a bit of a thing for markets! It didn't disapoint. We got there at sunset, and it is right by the seafront, which added to the general atmosphere of the place. One half of the market is dedicated to produce, so there were rows upon rows of stalls selling fruit, fresh fish, meat... pretty much anything you can think of. The other half of the place is a giant hawker centre, where you can find mostly chinese or malaysian dishes. We had a delicious dinner of something noodle and chicken related, followed by yummy sticky rice treats.
For several days I had been badgering Maz to go to a beach (which we missed out on a bit in Vietnam), so we decided to go to Mamutic, a paradise island just off the coast, where the snorkeling was supposed to be fantastic. The island was really pretty, with white sandy beaches and really clear blue seas. Whist I hit the beach, Maz tested out our snorkelling gear. She said she saw hundreds of beautiful fish, including the rare clown fish. So I decided to put my fish fear out of the way and give it a go. And I'm glad I did because the fish were absolutely amazing. There were tiny electric blue ones, creepy sea slugs, stripy black and white ones, and even that fish called Gill from Finding Nemo (great film). I didn't venture out as far as Maz as I did have a bit of a panic when I found myself in the middle of a group of them, but it was fun all the same.
We then decided to brave the six hour bus trip up to Sandakan, a port city. This is where my travel sickness decided to make an appearance - not too surprising really as the driver seemed to think that the best way to drive around mountain roads was to screech around corners at beakneck speed. When I did open my eyes though, we did see Mount Kinabalu, and congratulated ourselves on our decision not to climb it (it looked a bit high from up close).
Sandakan itself was a pretty boring and ugly place. There wasn't much to do - we had decided to come there to go to Turtle Island, but then we found out that it was really expensive and that there was very limited accomodation, so we gave that a miss. We did have a great time there though: we met up with Tom, an English guy from Newcastle, and Pierre, from Holland, and tested out the interestingly named "Kiss Me" club. We provided quite a lot of entertainment for the locals who were clearly not used to tourists hitting their dancefloor and polluting their karaoke (it was really very, very bad).
We went to a probiscus monkey sanctuary, which was interesting. The probiscus monkeys (or Dutch monkeys) have really long noses and big bellies, and are really quite ugly. But they are great fun to watch and listen to - they jump around like crazy and are very vocal.
But perhaps the highlight of our Borneo trip was the overnight "cruise/homestay" that we decided to take, along a river two hours outside Sandakan. It was more of a rowing boat than a cruise ship but hey. Our guide picked us up in his car, and I ended up chatting to him about country music (his favourite), and malaysian politics. I had to refrain from going on a rant about the state of affairs in England and bored him to death! We arrived at his house, a wooden building on giant stilts which swayed as soon as anyone moved, right next to the river.
The location itself was stunning. We were right in the middle of the jungle, and steam rose up off the palm trees from a recent thunderstorm. We set out in our tiny boat (it was just us and another Swedish couple) to try and spot some wildlife. We saw lots of probiscus monkeys and macaques, some giant lizards, lots of hornbills and eagles. But the absolute best thing, was spotting a pygme elephant. They are really rare in this part of Borneo - there are only about 200 of them, and the guide told us that they hadn't seen any for a few weeks. And I am really, really terrible at spotting wildlife - I kept thinking that the bits of wood that were floating around were crocodiles. So when I saw something grey moving around on the other side of the river, I thought that surely it was just a big boulder or something. But no, it really was an elephant! I felt quite proud of myself that day.
So now were are back in Kota Kinabalu, just waiting for our flight to Singapore, and then on to Australia. We are both very, very excited!