Our trip out to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah turned out to be initially quite eventful. We left KL giving ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport, via the metro then the fast link train. We arrived 20 minutes before we were supposed to check in and then I could not find the flight on the departure board. I asked at information and they told me we should be at the low cost terminal, which we had not heard about. We asked how long it would take and she said 15 minutes and we should get a taxi, we got an airport taxi so you pay before you leave it was 70RM we did not have enough, we went to 3 cash machines before one would work and then we were told it was only 35RM and we would have had enough. 10 mins until last check in, we dived into the taxi and asked him to go as quick as he could, which he did, via the airport back road which he should not really have been on! We got there with minutes to spare and check in hot and flustered our taxi driver was a star! After a quick bite to eat we boarded, the plane was fairly empty so we could pick our seats and the 3 hour air Asia flight was really good. As we came in to land we saw some islands with beautiful sea around them, it looked like paradise.
At the airport our bags came round really quickly which was great as we were not hanging around. In the baggage hall there was lots of information on Borneo and things to do in Kota Kinabalu and in the state of Sabah. We walked through the small airport and enquired about the bus, but there was no set timetable so we decided that is would be easier and quicker to get a taxi, we purchased a ticket and a young girl gave us a leaflet for backpacker's accommodation I also picked a couple up. We decided to get dropped off at Summer Lodge hostel the leaflet the girl at the airport had given us.The double room was fine although it was a shared bathroom and was 58RM per night including free Breakfast, internet and WIFI. We thought that it seemed fairly expensive for a hostel and we knew that there were at least another 4 in the area so we took a walk with our packs to see if we could find anything else. It seemed that all the hostels were about the same price and Summer Lodge was definitely the best one so far so we went back and checked in. The room was big and everything was so clean. By the time we were settled and used the free WIFI we took a short walk to have some lunch in a nearby café, the rainforest café, we both had Malay noodle dishes with different sauces and seafood both very nice. We then took a look around one of the malls and get to know the area. The hostel was above a Pizza Hut restaurant and outside was a courtyard with a bar, restaurant and a BBQ a band were also setting up to play. We decided to have the BBQ a few tiger beers and watch the band. The BBQ was a set meal that included salad, lamb, chicken and fish we ordered extra potato wedges, it was really nice and the band were fairly good all covers so we could sing along.
Day 2 - We were woken up to the sound of the Sunday Market outside and popped down to the kitchen to have our free breakfast of toast and jam. We then waked around the market which ran the whole length of the street outside. As we were only in Sabah for one week we thought that we should speak to a travel agent about doing the tours that we wanted to. We wanted to visit Mt Kinabalu, see the Proboscis Monkeys and also go to the other side of the island to see the Orang-utans and visit Turtle Island, where the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. We had a recommendation for an agency that should be able to help us so we set off to find them. All of the places that we found were closed, possibly because it was a Sunday. We could not find the place that we had been recommended so we went back to the hostel to check the name from our emails and we had got it wrong. We finally found out it was not far from where we were so we headed out again. We found Peggy, John and Dags recommendation, she was lovely very friendly and helpful that we were in there about an hour. Peggy told us that as we were only here for a week it would not be possible to visit Turtle Island as there are only a set number of people allowed to stay overnight and it was fully booked for the rest of the time that we were there. We then decided that it was a long way to go to the other side of the island just to see the orang-utans as it would take us two days to get there and back, unless we added it to another trip that neither of us were that bothered about. We were both disappointed but we should have planned our time a bit better. We did however book a couple of trips with Peggy, one to visit Mount Kinabalu and the other to visit the Proboscis Monkeys and the fireflies. After we had been in with Peggy we thought we would look around the mall opposite we had a look at a few of the shops before stopping for a coffee. We walked back to the hostel and decided to have a look around the market, most of the items were quite tacky compared to the rest of Asia, but we managed to get some fresh Borneo coffee for Wayne's Dad. We spent the rest of the day at the hostel, the weather was not good with a bit of rain, so we took the opportunity to use the internet to catch-up with things from home.In the evening we didn't go far, just down to the rainforest café again in the courtyard below for our dinner.The food was not as good as yesterdays lunch but OK and there was live music again, maybe because it was a Sunday, although we went off to bed instead of watching as we had an early start in the morning.
Day 3 - We were up at 6am for our pick-up for the trip to MountKinabalu. We set off early with a guide/driver, Sarje and two Malay girls from Sarawak, the other Malaysian Borneo State. We decided to start early rather than take the traditional tour group as this was more personalised and it is better to see the Mountain early in case the weather is bad and the cloud obscures visibility. Wayne was in the front of the car with me and the other girls in the back. Sarje was great he wanted to tell us all about the area and the places that we passed along the way, including new housing estates, shopping centres and the other big landmarks like the University. It was really interesting to hear about the local area. Our first stop was after about an hour, we stopped at the side of the main road and could walk out onto a bridge to get the view of the Mountain in the early morning light. The sun was coming up and it was so bright that we could not really see what we were taking pictures of so we just snapped away. The view however was fantastic. We stopped again further into the countryside on the ascent up the hills. Here we got a better view of the mountain and we were lucky that there was not too much cloud. We stopped and took pictures of the mountain with a village in the valley, a much better view we were so happy that we had come early as it was really a special sight. Our first main stop was at a local hillside village where locals were selling their wares. Sarje talked us through the local products; honey, coffee, tea etc and we were even able to sample them. It was a shame because they were all really nice but it would be impossible for us to carry these types of items with us. The Malay girls brought a big vat of honey which needed to be filtered so we would stop again on the way back to pick it up. We were free to walk around the area, Sarge was off to get some breakfast so we all decided to go with him for a traditional local Malay style breakfast. We had pork and noodle, stir fried I think with some egg and Chicken. To this you can add chillies and soy sauce to taste. We all agreed it was delicious; it was definitely the best Malay food we had eaten! As we left our table by the road we looked up and the cloud had started to cover the top of the mountain, which was a shame, but great that we had, had such great weather in the morning. Sarje continued to inform us about Sabah life, government, history and his own opinions on it all, which was great. His English was excellent and he was really enthusiastic and happy to answer our many questions. We arrived at the Kota Kinabalu National Park headquarters, the registration point for the climb, it was a little after 9am and there were groups getting ready to set off with their local guides, that are used to climbing the mountain. We however drove farther up to the starting point of the climb. It was surprisingly cold and we were glad we had brought our fleeces. Once I stepped out of the car I really didn't expect it to be so clod, but I suppose we were up a small percentage of the mountain. Here we could see the record board for the fastest climbers; men and women have both completed mountain races up here, so their times were the fastest. We got some great pictures of the mountain with the cloud blanketing over it.We did not stop for long as we were all so cold we wanted to get back in the car. We took a leisurely drive on through the hills, Sarje again explaining the farming and the ownership of the land. We stopped for a bit of history at Warnoch church which was a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the Second World War and many Australians lost their lives here.They are remembered on a plaque underneath one of the trees. It was not long before we arrived at Poring Hot Springs and the other side of the mountain. We set off past the springs and the bathing area to walk up the mountain past the closed butterfly garden. We climbed a fair few steps and the ground was quite slippery, we stopped for a while for rests so as not to get altitude sickness even though we were not that far above sea level. We all took it slowly and then we reached the canopy walkway in the rainforest.Unfortunately only a couple of sections were open due to damage but we had to climb into a tower and then out on to the walkway. It was fairly high up, which was not too bad to get used to, although Wayne struggled with his heights. The problem for me was that it did not feel all that stable. The first section was quite easy as the rope to hold on to was at hand level, the following section was very wobbly and I felt quite unsteady I think this was because the rope was up at shoulder level.It was good to be able to walk along the trees and a good feeling to be in the rainforest. On our way back down the mountain it started to rain so we put on our ponchos and looked ridiculous.We then decided even in spite of the rain that we wanted to walk on along one of the paths to see the waterfall.The rain got heavier which made the ground slippier and I fell in the mud. The waterfall was good and we were able to walk across bit it was not the weather to take a dip. We didn't stay long before heading back to warm up in the hot springs.The tubs and pools are set in some nice gardens with private spas if wandering around in your swimming gear is not for you. The tubs were deep and the water from the taps very hot, it took a little while to get the temperature right and the tubs actually filled enough to bathe in. We alternated the hot baths with jumping into a swimming pool of cold water from the river; apparently this is good for you! We enjoyed our time here and there were lots of local families using the facilities, apparently at the weekends you need to get to the springs early as it is so busy the hot sulphurous water runs down to a small trickle. We were then off for lunch which was in a restaurant just outside the entrance to the springs. It was a feast of Chines influenced food.We had soup, fish, beef, pork, chicken, rice, vegetable and noodles.There were about 8 plates of food between the four of us, then the fresh fruit came out, we were well and truly full after we had finished. The drive back was nice and relaxing and it did not feel long before we got back to the village to collect the honey. On the way back we saw an accident which looked as though it had only just happened and also some squashed puppies on the side of the road, which was very sad. The sky also went very dark and the rain started again very, very heavily. We both thoroughly enjoyed our day out and were so pleased that we had arranged a more private tour as the guide was excellent and we crammed full of information.
Day 4 - We were really lazy and got up late at about 11 am but were both still very tired. We were off on another trip at 12.30 and as we had missed the free breakfast we went to a little café next door. We had a set meal of Onion Soup, a filling sandwich and a juice. It was really good and would set us up for the day. It was not long after that we were collected for our tour and taken off in the mini-bus to pick up other tourists from their hotels in the City. The tour guide, also the driver, explained the format of the day and was a cheery person. We sat back and enjoyed the ride through the city out into the countryside, although there were quite a few towns on the way. was also surprised that the area looked quite affluent not at all like the rest of Asia It took 2 hours to get to Beaufort and the lodge that we would set off from. We had to walk along a wooden pier/walkway for about 10 minutes before we came to a halt, the guide pointed out a green snake curled up in a tree our first encounter with a dangerous animal in the wild. We were then shown by the farmer how to make Sago an extract from the Borneo trees used in food to bind it together. The tree flesh is rinsed with water; the white thick liquid that comes out is Sago. We went on the pathway to a decked area that is used as a restaurant and has a gift shop. We were given afternoon tea before setting off. The treats included Banana Fritters, Sticky Rice cake and a soft sponge type cake with as much tea and coffee as we wanted. All were really nice and I loved the sticky rice cake. We then borrowed life jackets, a set of binoculars and brought a bunch of bananas and were loaded on to a small boat with about 10 others and our guide and set off along the narrow canals of the river. Once we were out on the river the driver made a sudden stop and we could see the long tailed monkeys in the trees we stopped and threw some bananas to attract them but they were quite shy. As we waited patiently one larger monkey came along a tree branch and snapped up to 1/2 of banana right in front of us. We carried on all of us on the look out for more monkeys in the trees just off the river. As soon as anyone shouted the boat spun around, we saw more long tailed monkeys so went further up the river. We went past the farmers family home, wooden house built out over the river, here there were also monkeys climbing along a small bridge. Our next spot was the probiscus monkey, the one we had come to see and only found in Borneo. The monkey is characterised by its big long drooping nose, the first set we saw were females, there are more of these than males so they have more choice sometimes 20 females to one male. We got some good views of the monkeys swinging across the trees, we were really close, but our photos do not do it justice. After seeing a few different groups of females we were extremely lucky to find a male sat high in the branches surrounded by females and babies. We sat for a while and other boats joined us, we moved on and we saw another group of more male probiscus monkeys, this is not common at all. The light was begining to fade and we had been out already for our allotted 2 hours. We were on our way back when we came to a sudden halt the guide and the driver had spotted a 3rd species of Monkey the Silver Haired monkey, this is extremely uncommon and the guide could not believe our luck. There were about 20 monkeys flying around the branches and we spent a good 10 minutes watching them before it really started to get dark. We were all happy with our sightings. We were dropped at a wooden pier so that we could walk back and spot the wildlife and see the sunset, however we had been out on the boat and it was too dark! We had a nice meal but the flies were attracted to mine. We then had time to go out to the trees to have a look at the fireflies in them. There were that many flashing that it looked just like the lights on a xmas tree!!
The following few days were so wet it was difficult to do very much at all. The rain storms were heavy and lasted for hours. We spent the days catching up with emails, the blogs and watching films as well as researching for Australia. We looked around the many shopping centres, managed to get my haircut and tried to go tot he cinema but there were nothing on we wanted to see. We ate some pretty good food including the biggest and most filling pork noodle soup at a small place recommended by Sarje our guide. We also managed to eat an enormous set meal for 2 curry, it was sooo good, but Wayne over ate and felt sick for hours. We did not attempt much Malaysian food as there was so much other choice, we managed to have a good Chinese noodle dish though in a small restaurant. In KK Malaysian food is heavily influenced by Chinese culture and we decided to eat what we want rather than search hard for true Malay food, although I think we should have tried a bit more than we did, but what we did attempt was not too good!
On our last day the sun was shining and the rain had stopped so we had breakfast at the hostel before heading down to Kota Kinabalu port to pick up a boat to take us out to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park a national park 3-8kms off the coast of the capital. The park is made up of small islands and coral reef. You can buy a ticket that allows you to visit as many of the Islands as you want in one day, the boats come and pick up regularly. We thought that one island would be fine for one day so we chose Manukan Island, which was tiny but had a small shop and a big picnic area. The sand was firm and white and the beach was fairly quiet. There was also a scuba diving outfit here for divers wanting to get a better view of the oral and fish. The swimming and snorkelling area was roped off and was only very shallow but was teeming with tropical fish. Lots of people feed bread to the fish and when both Wayne and I were in the water, only knee deep we got bitten. I have never moved so fast in all of my life, I did not know what had bitten me, but it hurt and drew blood! We assumed it was a tropical fish that bite because they are used to being fed, I stayed out of the water from then on alhtough I had, had the chance to see and swim amonst lots of fish before the bite. We stayed and relaxed on the island for about 3 hours before the sky started to cloud over, the boat ride back was a bit bumpy and the driver was flying over the waves, I was glad I had a life jacket on. That evening after packing our bags we walked around the corner and found a nice Italian restaurant where Wayne ate pizza and I had pasta and meatballs. Borneo was fantasitc, we were a little unlucky with the weather. We would love to come back to Sabah and see the eastern side of the state, turtle island and sipidan island for snorkelling!