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The Big Trip. Stephen, Laura, James and Sinead head for an epic adventure: 17 weeks in South America 8 weeks in New Zealand 2 weeks in Fiji 11 weeks in Australia 14 weeks in South East Asia.

Singapore and Malaysia: South East Asia Part 1..

MALAYSIA | Monday, 25 January 2010 | Views [1232]

From Sydney we flew into Singapore, our first stop on the South East Asia leg of our RTW trip. Singapore was a nice place to start our trip as it meant we would be easing our way into the Asian culture. Although it is in Asia, Singapore is pretty westernised. It’s a shiny new city for the most part with lots of  gleaming high rises. It is immaculately kept and the wealth in the city is evident in the amount of huge shopping centres and high end designer shops. There is not much evidence of poverty here, most people  have designer handbags and iphones and things are expensive!! We spend a few days seeing the city and getting used to the almost unbearable humidity. We were used to it being hot after being in Oz but this was different. It was sticky, clammy and hot. It was always a relief to get inside an air conditioned building. We hit China town in search of some fake goodies but unfortunately Singapore seems pretty strict on that kind thing so no joy there. We then went to little India which happens to be pretty close to a very Muslim part of  town, all the women were dressed up in Burkas and there was me and Sinead in our strappy tops and shorts… Talk about feeling like you didn’t belong. The lads thought they’d be funny and demanded we walk two steps behind them. We were having none of it. Singapore also singled the start of a diet of noodles and rice for the next 3 months. So we decided to throw caution to the wind and go to a hawker stall, basically a restaurant on the sidewalk, we attempted to order something normal but ended up with what looked like squid tentacles. Not very appetising think well be sticking to chicken from now on.


After a few days we got a bus 6 hrs north into Malaysia and straight to Kuala Lumpur. The bus ride was fine but when we stopped for some food and went to use the toilet we knew we were in Asia.  The toilets were “squat toilets”. This looks like a toilet bowl only its in the ground and so you have to squat over it to use it. I have no idea how they do it… talk about awkward. Some of them don’t flush so there is a big drum of water and a scoop to pour water down. They stink and there is no toilet paper because there is either what looks like a tiny shower head to wash your self or there is a bucket of water. We made sure to always have a pack of tissues with us. Thankfully in most big cities its not to hard to find a proper toilet.


We arrived In Kuala Lumpur and straight away they were trying to rip us off. A taxi driver wanted what turned out to be about five times what it should cost to get to our hostel and he was not happy when we told him where to go. The hostel was nice but the best thing about it was that it was only one block from the china town markets. This is literally hundreds of stalls and shops crammed together selling pretty much everything you could think of and pretty much all of it is of questionable legitimacy. It was fake everything… watches, bags, trainers, clothes etc.. Haggling was the name of the game. Myself and Sinead were crap at this but Stephen and James drove a hard bargain. As we still have 3 months of travelling to do we couldn’t buy to much because that means carrying it around. Me and Sinead bought a couple of things that we would use while travelling but had to leave the rest. Our only consolation being that we would be flying out of Bangkok where we can shop shop shop! One evening while we were having some thing to eat in a small restaurant right in the middle of all the stalls we spotted Mary Harney , the minister for health. Very random. We chilled in K.L for few days, went to see the famous Petronas Twin Towers by day and night. To continue our run of museum visits we went to The National Islamic Museum. Most of the museum was ok but the best part was the Photography exhibition by a guy called Steve McCurry. He had travelled around most of the Islamic countries and taken some of the most amazing photos.  While in K.L. we had some decisions to make. We wanted to go to see the orang-utans which are only found in Borneo and Indonesia. We decided on Borneo and booked an Air Asia flight. Air travel is very cheap for the most parts in South East Asia.


After a 4.30am start we were on our way to Borneo. We flew into Sandakan which is home to the Sepilock Orang-utan sanctuary on of only 4 places in the world where you can see Orang-utans in the wild. The sanctuary takes in Orang-utans who have been hurt, kept as pets, abused and babies that have had there parents killed mostly by people or have been left homeless because of the destruction of large amounts of jungle for palm oil plantations. They care for the animals and then release them back into the wild. The Orang-utans we saw have all been released into the wild but they are fed small amounts everyday because it can take them some time to learn how to feed themselves. We visited the sanctuary to see the animals being fed and it was amazing, They’re such kind gentle funny animals and apparently share 97% of the same DNA as humans. The next day we went to Labuk Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. This is a similar kind of thing to the Orang-utan sanctuary. The Proboscis Monkey is found no where else in the world only Borneo. They’re not the most attractive monkey in the world.  There were also Silver Leaf Monkeys.


Borneo is more developed than we expected with a lot of poverty, but as everywhere else wealth swell. The people were also some of the friendliest we have met every time we would walk down the street people would stare and smile at us wave at us from cars and busses, we felt like celebrities.  Seeing as were in Borneo which apparently has some of the worlds best Jungle we thought we should do a jungle trip.


We set off at 8.30 and 2 hrs later our first stop was Gomantong Caves. These are home to millions of bats and Swallows along with every huge creepy crawly you could think of and lots of bat and bird shit. The cave is best know for the birds nest which are collected twice a year and sold to the Chinese who make it into soup and eat it.. Ew. On the way here it started to rain quite heavily… Little did we know that this would be the beginning the torrential monsoon like rain that would continue for the next two days. We stayed on the banks of the river in  Kinabatangan national park area. The rain continued non stop for two days. We got to do a boat trip but this was cut short because a tree had fallen into the river. We also did bit of trekking where we walked in water and mud above our ankles and got soaked and covered in leeches even our guide was glad when that was over. On the trip you have a chance to see monkeys, crocs and elephants. We only seen monkeys. Later on the second day we heard that some of the other group had seen elephants… We were raging, just our luck. It rained non stop, we have never seen anything like it and the next morning it was still raining. We set out in the downpour for the boat (uncovered by the way) trip down the river. After a couple of hours drive we got a bus which would take five hrs to get to the city of Kota Kinabalu. The journey took eight long painful hours and to make is worse the bus had to drive through floods which meant that all our bags under the bus got soaked. We were not happy backpackers!


While we were in Borneo we decided we wanted to go to the Philippines so thanks to Air Asia after a day an Kota Kinabalu (doing lots of laundry) we flew to the Manila in the Philippines, hopefully leaving the rain behind.

Tags: borneo, jungle, malaysia, monkeys, orangutans, singapore

 

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