Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Life in Words: Borneo - Part 1

I'm not sure where the idea to come to Borneo came from.  It just popped into my head one day in December and the decision was made.

Now, I'm aware that most people don't even know where Borneo is, so I'll provide a quick lesson.  Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java, Indonesia, right in the geographic center of south east Asia.  The island is divided among 3 countries; Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei (I'm in the Malaysian part).  It's claims to fame are orangutans, Mt Kinabalu, and the very first season of survivor (yes, I'm going to the "survivor" island while I'm here). It also is home to the world's oldest rainforest and it's reported that since just 1996 over 360 new animal and plant species have been discovered here (cool!!)

Although not far from Australia, it was a bloody effort to get here because there aren't exactly an abundance of flights (let alone a direct one from Sydney). So, it was a red eye to KL, a 4 hour layover at 3:30am and then a 2.5 hour flight to Kota Kinabalu.  Thankfully both flights were half empty so I was able to stretch right out and sleep, but it was still a long trip.

I'm on a tour while here, but I arrived 1 night early, so had some time to do some exploring on my own in Kota Kinabalu ("KK"). KK is a strange place. It has the feeling of any other Asian city, only without all the people.  It's a pretty quiet place - not much seems to be going on. At all.  The only tourists seem to be chinese; there are hardly any white folk around.  I think it might  just be that KK is just a jumping off point for bigger and better things, so no one hangs around.  Also, the 'small' war going on in the eastern part of the island (between the malaysians and some Filipino terrorists) probably isn't helping either.

I "splurged" and stayed in a nice hotel on the waterfront until meeting up with my tour ($100 per night - crazy money for KK standards). The view is gorgeous, but KK seems to be a fishing town, so everything smells kind of fishy. Not horrible, but not great either.  I kept myself busy quite easily though; since everything is so cheap it's easy to find activities to do.

The first day I had a 2 hour massage for 80myr ($25).  I have no complaints about the massage itself - for 25 bucks she did a great job sorting my back out. The weird thing though was that she kept belching throughout the massage.  Like 'beer drinking' loud belches.  Every time she was very apologetic, but it just killed the mood a bit.  She probably let 5 or 6 go in the two hours.

The second day I went out to an island just off the city to go to the beach.  The sand was nice and the water was lovely, but one again it was a bit weird. A bunch of Chinese tours showed up (probably 5 or 6 groups of 30 people) and proper banquets were set up on the beach - like covered chairs with bows as you may see at a tacky wedding.  Another mood killer.

My tour group is interesting. Everyone is really nice and are keen to do things and go for a drink and such, but there is one odd ball.  I don't even know how to describe him other than by saying that he isn't quite right in the head (which is ironic a bit because apparently he used to work as a cook at a mental health hospital).  He is british and extremely loud. He turned up in KK and apparently didn't even know what country he was in; he just knew he was Borneo.  It then turned out that he didn't bring any hiking gear to climb Mt Kinabalu (which we are doing later this week), and asked our guide if he could hike in his black shoes.

I'm willing to venture a guess that he also didn't bring any warm clothes and is going to end up freezing when we get to the summit at 6am, which is 4100m above see level (update to follow in next post). He also announced to his poor roommate first thing that he snores quite loudly.  Before this, he was in Nepal for 3 months, but didn't do any trekking, which is strange.  He did, however, meet a nepalese girl (his first ever girlfriend) who he plans on going back to marry.  He has been traveling for a year off some family inheritance, so something tells me that this impoverished Nepalese girl may be after something more than just his winning personality.  He may not be my cup of tea but he does keep things interesting.

Continue reading at: My Life in Words: Borneo - Part 1