Monday, November 13, 2017

Laura's Travel Blog: Borneo and Mount Kinabalu

Those of you following my travels closely might have noticed an absence of a Borneo blog; here, the delayed lowdown on Borneo and specifically, our trek to the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

With all my group tours booked and paid for in full before I left England, this was perhaps the one I was looking forward to the most. I’d chosen it partly because it involved ascending  Mount Kinabalu to 4095m, but also for its general activity levels and hiking trails over a three week period, in addition to the wildlife and national parks we’d see, most notably orangutans and turtles. As a bonus, this tour was an Intrepid “Original” tour, meaning its accommodation would be a step up from what I’d become accustomed to, and relative luxury.

After the glorious heat of Thailand, Borneo was certainly a step down in terms of the weather. Although temperatures mostly managed to reach mid to late twenties during the day, this was generally accompanied by several hours of rain each afternoon, followed by cooler temperatures. This advanced to entire days of unrelenting downpours by the end of my stay; I was informed the weather was unusual for the time of year – we were suffering the side effects of the typhoon in the Philippines. Joy.

After two months in Thailand, what struck me about Borneo was how well everyone could speak English there. In Thailand most people have learnt the basics, but with nowhere near the fluency of Malaysian Borneo.  Thankfully food prices were similarly cheap, with good evening meals frequently being £1.50-£3. Mmm, rendang.

I began my stay in Kuching, where I was able to catch up with a friend I’d made on my Indian trip in May; by complete coincidence she was there at the same time as me! My next priorities were as usual whilst on the road – doing laundry and finding a gym – leading to what are probably my most memorable gym experiences so far.

Upon finding an affordable one, I commenced my workout, only to be reprimanded two minutes later by a male staff member; I had stripped down to my Adidas sports bra, partly due to it being so hot – there was no aircon there – and secondly, wearing extra clothing merely creates extra laundry, so generally I don’t bother wearing more than I have to. 

Accompanying my sports bra was a matching pair (unusual for me!) of cycling shorts. This fashion achievement was apparently lost on the gym staff there who informed me it was not appropriate attire – I was in a Muslim country and therefore considered to be showing too much flesh; I was asked to wear a top over my sports bra, “for religious reasons”. There were only two guys in the gym when I arrived, neither of whom appeared to object, but – rules are rules.

Later, upon searching for mats to do floorwork, I couldn’t find any so decided the gym carpet would do. I’d be laundering everything anyway, and frankly, the carpet was probably cleaner than most gym mats. The staff, having caught on to the mischievous Brit frequenting the premises, were fast on their feet this time, entering within seconds of me lying down, carrying a mat for me to use. Upon asking where these were located, I was informed they are behind the desk (hidden) back at reception, which is in a separate room. Well, what’s the point of that?!