Fri 14th Nov - There is something satisfying about doing a bit of
domestics occasionally. Walking around a city or town aimlessly is something
i'm not a great fan of. It is nice to have a purpose, and when you are looking
for specific things, you get to know a bit more about how a place works. Simple
things like getting a pair of boots repaired, buying a new camera bag,
toiletries. Everywhere is different, and some places easier than others. At
home I would know where to find a shoe repair place, whilst here they don't
exist in the same form, and in Mirì nowhere would sell me replacement liners
for my boots, or even suggest where I could go, so gave up. Buying underwear,
choice?...nope....take the limited range on offer or nothing better available.
Friday and the wheels pub downstairs had a live band on stage. A superb 5-piece
girl band doing a good variety of stuff. Being a dancer and in need of my fix
was a great opportunity. Had an awesome night dancing with some lovely locals til
early hours of the morning...first time in ages...and bugger...i'm moving on
tomorrow. Why does that happen? Could always change my flight as one of the
ladies was a singer who will be on stage doing jazz tomorrow night. Could
always change my flight, as only a 50 Ringgits penalty. Will see. Anyway, they
don't get many male dancers here...well, none from what I could gather, so that
made for a busy evening and must have shed a few pounds in sweat as it was
sad to be saying goodbye to Kathy and Michelle. In a very short time they had
become very friendly and nice to be around. Such is life...would be a good
excuse to come back some day, as there is enough to do around here for a good
life. It is one of those down to earth cities. Not touristy...not too big...not
too small...not tacky. The development work on the waterfront will undoubtedly
change things, but in a positive way I hope.
Sat 15th Nov - Moving on from Miri today, to Kota Kinabalu in
Sabah, which is another independent Malaysian state.
I have to say that staying at the Highlands was
an interesting experience. It isn't the most openly friendly place i've stayed,
but facilities are clean. If you re a cat lover then great, as they are
everywhere, as the owner is a cat fanatic. Two days ago one of the cats had a
litter of four, which were adorable. So tiny and sweet.
Depart on Air Asia flight AK5814 At 2:45pm,
which even though only a short flight, required 2hrs check-in time. As
mentioned in my last posting, at 135.50 Ringgits, it is far cheaper than any
other options of getting to Kota Kinabalu. One little catch though, which I
hadn't noticed when I booked it. Should read clause 4 of the flight
Itinerary.... You may transport checked
baggage up to a maximum weight of 15kg without incurring an additional excess
baggage fee. Checked baggage will incur a non-refundable checked baggage
handling fee on a per piece basis per one way. In other words...I was
charged 10 ringgits for checking in 1 piece of luggage. The first time ever! If
the item you are checking in is piece of sports equipment, they can charge you
another fee too. Moral...read the small print on budget airline flights. I
thought it odd though that I flew Air Asia from Johor Bhru in Peninsula
Malaysia to Kuching and wasn't charged. So it must depend on where or how you
book your ticket. Air asia are the first company to wipe out the fuel surcharge
and taxes on flights, but there are other little things they may catch you out
Plenty of time to kill ahead of departure, so the
thoughts run away as usual....
I watched a section of the amazing TV programme
'Animal Planet' this morning. It happened to be on Borneo, and specifically the
Orang-Utan rehabilitation programme around Sepilok, which I will be going to
see in the next two weeks. Borneo is a wildlife Mecca for most of us. Didn't
get to see much in Sarawak, but hope that will improve in Sabah. The rainforest
environment is perfect habitat for many animals, and the main reason for coming
here. I will also visit the Indonesian Kalimantan part of Borneo another time,
but not on this occasion. Orangutans are gorgeous animals. A couple on the
programme were playing just like children. Rolling over and doing crazy funny
things. They were attempting to give them some medication, and to see the
expressions on their faces was just like a child that doesn't want to do
something. A treat for the carers is feeding time, and must be a beautiful
experience to be rearing the infants. They are very affectionate
Things to do in Sabah? Lots of things hopefully.
Want to climb Mount Kinabalu, the dominant mountain forming a backdrop to KK. A
visit to the Rafflesia National Park, assuming that the Rafflesias are open
now. Will have to check first. Also some other wildlife trips to other parks.
Another highlight will be some diving in Sipadan
and Mabul, both accessed via Semporna on the North Eastern coast of Sabah. If
the timing is right then I will try to get to Turtle islands in the north. I
gather though that it isn't the right season for turtle spotting.
The flight was due to take off at 2:45pm, so I
was surprised when they announced boarding at 2pm. A mad rush for the gate, on
the plane and taxiing for take off at 2:25pm. Air Asia prides itself as being
the cheapest and best budget airline in Asia. That also seems to include
leaving early too!
The in-flight magazine was worth reading as it
pointed out some news I had already received about the crazy price drops they
have initiated. Will have to review my lans now based on some super deals they
have. No point struggling overland for days when it is cheaper to fly.
I had booked into North Borneo Cabin, in the commercial centre of the city. From the
airport there were three ways of getting there. As luck had it, the cheaper of
the options appeared a few minutes later. The City Shuttle bus only costs 1
ringgit for any length of journey and goes to the bus station in town, only a
few kilometers from the airport, but a nice journey. The Cabin is on Gaya
Street, near to the famous 'Australian place' and also home to the Sunday
market, so a good place to be. Run by the lovely Annie, a really friendly place
to be based.
Soon after arriving I booked my climbing trip up
mount Kinabalu for the 18th at 680 Ringgits fully inclusive including guide and
food. Will be an early start and take 2 days with an overnight stop. Going to
be tough, but enjoyable I hope.
Whilst i'm here I will also do an overnight at
the 'Borneo Survivor Adventure' on an island close to here. More of that
Off to explore the city...
You know how you make an initial opinion about
somewhere within the first few hours? Kota Kinabalu...from now on just referred
to as KK...is one of the great destinations of Asia. It has everything you
could want of a city. Nestled in a superb location facing the South china Sea,
with a backdrop of the magnificent Kinabalu mountain, at over 4000m. Gifted
with a good climate and within easy reach of so many interesting places to
visit. The city itself has it all. Not too big to be overpowering, but big
enough to have a good range of facilities. Swanky shopping malls, great eating
places, street life, a nice boardwalk promenade, with a great sunset tonight,
looking out to the islands...oh, and beautiful ladies. Lots of friendly people
who said hello as I passed...and still retaining that relaxed open feel to it.
Aimed along the waterfront and had a delicious
meal at the Kohinoor Indian
restaurant...best in a while and with a table overlooking the sea...would have
been nice to share it with someone special though...que sera sera! It is times
like this when travelling alone is a bit empty. Great place, but one to be
shared. Anyway, gotta make the most of it...
It was an amusing place to be as the hawkers do
their rounds of the tables selling fake watches and sunglasses etc. Picked up a
new pair of Ray-Ban metal framed sunglasses which looked robust enough for 13
ringgits, complete with case. Could have had a G-Shock Casio watch for 20
ringgits...of course, claimed to be waterproof to 200 metres...yep a bargain.
Would probably last all of a few weeks. Having said that, I bought a fake Casio
G-Shock in Madagascar for four dollars, and it lasted nearly a year. It was the
strap that broke, not the watch, and I only replaced the battery after 9 months
or so in the Maldives. That watch had travelled! So...20 ringgits? Worth a risk
I guess. But wouldn't expect it to be waterproof beyond two centimeters!
Along the waterfront is an excellent market and
food stalls area. Some nice fruit available and some artistic displays of fish
ready for purchase or eating. It reminded me of a few other places I’ve been
where the waterside came alive at night. As I said earlier…this place seems to
have it all and in a nice balance.
A gorgeous girl who was getting married tomorrow
was being paraded along the front by the bars on a hen night by her friends.
Just the same as anywhere else in the world. Having great fun and passers bay
joining in to wish her well.
The evening went a bit wild....many young folk
staying at the cabin and I was doing some stuff on the net upstairs when one of
the guys from downstairs appeared and invited me for a drink. They had what
seemed an endless supply of Civas whisky and coke and gin. There was a guitar
so I did some playing which was nice. A local girl with a lovely smooth voice
could play and so joined in. A great night with a sociable group. The
electricity failed about an hour into the evening, so the rest was done by
whatever light we could get together. At 1:30am we decided to go to a night
club. That was a bit of a mistake, as there aren't any decent ones here. The
first one was a gay bar, and the second one was a mix of a gay bar and a
pick-up joint. There were only a handful of girls and dozens of guys who
weren't interested in girls. When I started talking to one of the girls, I was
approached to buy her a 'Lady drink'. That was the point when I knew she was on
the menu too! Like being back in Thailand, but with not so many girls around.
Gave up and left soon after even though they said it was too early and it
doesn't get started until 3am and goes until 5am at least. On the way out I
bumped into a ladyboy on the stairs...like I say, a bit like Thailand, which
surprised me, as I didn't expect it here.
Sun 16th Nov - The Gaya Street market was on today, starting early and
attracting lots of handicrafts from the local ethnic groups, it is right
outside the door of where I am staying. I thought it was one of the better
markets I had seen, as set up by the locals for the locals, although there was
plenty of tourist stuff to buy. A couple of excellent blind guitarists
accompanied by a sweet sounding girl on vocals blended in with the activity of
the stalls. Many stalls selling herbal remedies, magnificent sea shells, old
traditional instruments, animals for pets, fruit and vegetables of every shape
and size, many unidentifiable. Many styles of basketware, leather goods of
varying ethnicity, garden flowers and beautiful orchids...just about everything
really. Got my walking boots repaired for 10 ringgits, which I was relieved
about, as I will need them in a couple of days time. Also a good opportunity to
just people watch...a favourite pastime.
Needed a break and so walked up to Signal hill,
which overlooks the city. On the way up is the 'Atkinson Clock Tower', now in
the hands of the Sabah museum for its care, it was completed in 1905 to
commemorate Francis George Atkinson, the first district commissioner who died
of 'Borneo Fever' I.e. Malaria.
Further on up the hill is the 'Observatory',
from where you can have a view over the centre. To be honest, not the best view
point, but nice to take a break and catch a lovely breeze that was refreshing
before heading back down to town for some lunch.
As it is sunday, the waterfront ws occipied by
people chilling and enjoying the cool breeze. A short disance across the water
from the front is Gaya Island. From here it looks to have an old fishing
village appeal to it, as I could see a long stri if old stilted waterside
shacks. Not much else visible, but assume there to be much more the other side
of the island as it is park of a national park, covered in dense forest.
Started raining in the afternoon, so thwarted a
plan to go to one of the highest vantage points north of the city to watch the
sun set. Started talking to a girl who had just come back from climbing Mount
Kinabalu. It had rained for a lot of the time she was there. She got drenched
and cold and came back with a fever. I'm doing this on tuesday, so didn't need
to hear that! Hope the weather improves…..
Bye for now